Aario's blog about life and technology

Archive for September, 2012

Going to space without a rocket

Whenever I hear the word “space”, the first thing I imagine is a dark sky with lots of stars, the second thing is a huge rocket! But this is not the only vision of space.
Rockets are not the only mean to go to space. They are actually very expensive and dangerous. Previously we used to use rockets mostly because of lake of technology to invent and use alternative ways. But nowadays we have lots of proposals for alternative ways of launching spacecrafts up to sky. From space elevators[1] lifting payloads to 100km altitude using carbon nanotube tethers to space guns [2] shooting objects. From magnetic trains to speed up spacecrafts up to 11km/s speed called star-tram [3], to magnetic loops suspended right in the sky [4].
The last two are 100% feasible with current technology. Their very first benefits compared to rocketry are the chipper price of launch and safer design. While minimum prices to launch a payload to space using current rocket technology is around 4000USD per kilogram [5], cost of electrical energy that a star-tram uses to do the same is estimated as low as 1 USD [6].
The reason behind the fact that we are still on this rocky planet is that current ticket price to go to space is so much expensive. The first step to move our society into the border less world of outer space is to lower this price. But the reason that we still don’t have such alternative systems like space elevator is that while its considerably chipper to launch space crafts using them, they need huge amounts of investment to construct. An investor will surely ask while one can achieve a good interest by investing in IT services like social networks, why one would put all his eggs in basket of such a risky industry of space? What is the benefit out there?
This is the billion dollar question of the century: If we build a star-tram or any of inexpensive launch systems, and thus move a huge facility out to space, what can we do up there to cover all expenditures in between and make a huge benefit impossible with current businesses?
Space Frontier’s New Space annual conference [7] got a “Business plan Competition” [8] where they give tens of thousands of dollars to a winning sound business plan. Think about it.

[1] The Space Elevator Reference

[2] Quicklaunch Inc – Affordable Space Exploration

[3] The Startram Project

[4] Magnetic Suspended AB-Structures and Motionless Space Stations

[5] Space Transportation Costs: Trends in Price Per Pound to Orbit 1990-2000

[6] StarTram: The Key to a Robust, Low Cost Earth/Lunar Transport System

[7] NewSpace 2012 Space Conference

[8] NewSpace Business Plan Competition