We live at the bottom of gravity well that dictates design, similar to Feynman’s quote- “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”
This means that no matter how many sci-fi movies portray SSTO and no matter how many NewSpace infomercials scream cheap, “there is no free lunch.” By the way, the other famous Heinlein quote about Earth orbit being “halfway to anywhere” was revised to “Low Earth Orbit” as a NewSpace marketing ploy – He never said LEO and may just as easily have meant GEO.
LEO is not really space and is a dead end.
To achieve escape velocity (not so much orbital velocity) hydrogen upper stages are almost a necessity. To go anywhere Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO) with humans requires massive shielding and chemical propulsion will not work. Only nuclear energy can push such mass (until some kind of beam propulsion infrastructure exists). That said, the only practical form of nuclear propulsion is “pulse” or, to put it bluntly, bombs.
This means that inside the Earth’s magnetosphere only chemical propulsion is practical due to fallout eventually being sucked into the atmosphere. This works out fine because just outside the magnetosphere is the Moon and that is where we have to go for the water-as-radiation-shielding anyway.
To keep this as short as possible, only progressively more powerful iterations of a Super Heavy Lift Vehicle used in a state sponsored public works project to develop a cislunar infrastructure has any chance of success. NewSpace is a scam that ends in the dead end of LEO.
And that makes their flagship companies inferior lift launch vehicle a hobby rocket.
NewSpace has been doing one thing for years yet nobody ever talks about it: the Ayn-Rand-in-Space Musk groupies damn the space agency and cal for it to be done away with on one page and praise NASA for pouring several billion tax dollars into commercial cargo and commercial crew on another.
They have nothing bad to say about the over one hundred billion dollar space station to nowhere yet curse all government “porkonaut projects” not connected to SpaceX (like the SLS) as pure evil. If these two-faced deceivers were not so damaging to the future of space exploration their idiotic contradictions would be funny.
RealSpace or NoSpace
By Gary Michael Church
The 1967 Apollo 1 fire was the key event leading to the end of the 1st space age before it really began. Anticipation by the aerospace industry of astronomical profits came to an abrupt end in one afternoon. It was not the three fatalities that doomed the space age, as aviation mishaps every year before and since result in hundreds of civilian deaths. The realization that space was going to be hard money would be the catalyst that shifted the focus of industry. The problem was that cold war toys generating vast revenues did not really have to perform as required and spaceships had to work as advertised. Concerning Human Space Flight, there are no false promises or rigged tests bringing in money because actual space travel cannot be faked. Industry chose the easy defense money. Despite recent public relations efforts proclaiming a new age of cheap lift the reality has not changed.
There is no cheap.
At the end of 1968, 22 months after Apollo 1, Apollo 8 left the gravitational field of Earth. Human beings left Earth orbit on December 21st to orbit the Moon and the space age began. Four years later the space age ended when Apollo 17 splashed down on December 19, 1972. The Apollo 8 mission lasted six days, Apollo 10 eight days, Apollo 11 another eight days, Apollo 12 ten days, Apollo 13 five days, Apollo 14 nine days, Apollo 15 twelve days, Apollo 16 eleven days, and Apollo 17 twelve days- for a total of 83 days. Those nine missions over four years totaling a week short of three months Beyond Earth Orbit were the space age. Very soon a half a century will have passed since human beings left Earth. A repeat of the Apollo 8 mission is tentatively scheduled for 2023 but the future of the under-funded and highly criticized Space Launch System is in doubt. These SLS critics are almost all NewSpace fans with an Ayn-Rand-in-Space libertarian worldview.
The current circumstances surrounding Human Space Flight are complex and addressing the situation beyond the scope of an opinion column. However, some progress may be made by clarifying the terminology involved in discussing space. Such conversations are often a confusing mess due to years of the relevant terms being used ambiguously in misleading infomercials. Revised definitions are a must-have for sorting out exactly what is happening. OldSpace is used disparagingly to describe the aerospace “giants” that have passed on public works projects in space in favor of defense dollars. NewSpace is used to signify entrepreneurial efforts to make space pay-off for private investors by way of “cheap lift” that outbids supposedly corrupt aerospace concerns. These two descriptors are often disputed or modified so transcending and clarifying with a third and fourth are in order.
“RealSpace” is a likely third term designating a set of definitions arguing against “NoSpace.” The fourth term describes the results of OldSpace and NewSpace efforts since Apollo. The first RealSpace definition moves the boundary of “space” from the present Karman line altitude of 62 miles to Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) at 22,236 miles. The second definition classifies space platforms and spacecraft as essentially different constructs than space stations and spaceships. A “space station” is properly a minimum-healthy-cubic-foot-per-person compartment providing a near-sea-level radiation environment and artificial Earth gravity Beyond Low Earth Orbit (BLEO). Mating a propulsion system to a large enough station would in effect make it a “spaceship” capable of interplanetary travel Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO).
The third RealSpace definition regards space “travel” as necessarily a BLEO/BELO activity. Due to the distances involved, exploring the solar system with humans will require nuclear energy, multi-year missions, and spaceships of a size that, at this point, provoke shock and automatic denial. Due to the radiation problem any long term human presence BLEO will require massive shielding realistically well over one thousand tons for even a small crew. Again, this seemingly impossible requirement provokes shock and automatic denial. Especially outraged are NewSpace enthusiasts whose entrepreneurial visions do not include massively shielded, state sponsored projects. Space travel in the cislunar sea between the Moon and Earth is a risky activity using spacecraft without adequate shielding and must eventually end when true spaceships become available.
A basic guide to the requirements for any RealSpace activity can be gathered from three sources; the magazine article by Eugene Parker “Shielding Space Travelers”, the book “Project Orion, the true story of the atomic spaceship” by George Dyson, and the work of Paul Spudis that half a decade ago revealed the ice resources at the lunar poles. This “Parker-Dyson-Spudis continuum” is the key to any real progress in space exploration and colonization. In 1976 “The High Frontier” by Gerard Kitchen O’Neill was published and this book proposed artificial hollow spinning moons constructed from lunar material as the only practical form of space colonization. O’Neill’s conclusion that no natural bodies in the solar system are suitable for colonization still holds true. Space solar energy was also proposed in this work as the economic driver of colonization and, 40 years ago, the cure for global warming.
The present zeitgeist is to accept the media’s portrayal of LEO and Mars as the “logical” goals of U.S. and international space efforts. NewSpace marketing and NASA public relations are largely responsible for this farce and reversing those effects are a critical first step. The best course would be to abandon both the LEO and Mars dead ends and focus exclusively on lunar resources and Super Heavy Lift Vehicles. Entrepreneurial efforts presently directed at reuse by landing back the lower stages of smaller vehicles would best be redirected into lunar lander development. Unless the next U.S. administration drives change, OldSpace and NewSpace will continue to generate NoSpace for decades to come. The U.S. DOD budget is proof that America has the resources necessary to change direction and begin a second space age without end.
By Gary Michael Church
The recent 15 year “celebration” of the ISS drove me to comment on a certain forum and once again, I have been banned. I have been persona non grata on all of the popular space websites for several years now.
The ISS is the “jobs program” the NewSpace mob is always screaming at the top of their lungs about. It is a statement about how stupid they think the public is that the jobs program they wail and gnash their teeth about is actually their own sacred cash cow. Without the ISS there would be no SpaceX or NewSpace. The Flim Flam trapping the U.S. in LEO is made clear by the infographic at the top of the page which explains the energy required to lift radiation shielding from the surface of the Moon to GEO.
The present situation concerning space travel is this- there is only one place to go and that destination is the Moon. LEO is not really space, it is basically a 3 hour drive straight up. The real edge of space is GEO, 23,236 miles up. The radiation environment above LEO in real space means no extended human presence is possible without massive shielding. Short of lifting thousands of tons of plastic or tapwater out of the deep gravity well of Earth, the only place offering a radiation sanctuary is the Moon.
There are actually immense lava tubes that a small city could fit in theorized to exist under the surface of the Moon. Unfortunately, while we have spent billions on science probes to every planet in the solar system (and the space station to nowhere) we do not know where these ready made sanctuaries are in our own back yard. Human beings can dash across the quarter-million-mile-wide cislunar sea between Earth and the Moon but if they get caught in a solar particle event, a “storm”, they will suffer profound life-shortening or fatal radiation exposure.
Robots can possibly create a sanctuary in lunar orbit by way of robot ice harvesters that land on ice deposits and ferry water up to empty rocket stages. When these stages are partially filled with several hundred tons of water they become a radiation sanctuary. Attach a cable system between two such stages and spin them and an Earth gravity and near-sea-level radiation environment exists where a human being can survive indefinitely with no ill effects. These true space stations should be the bare minimum result of several hundred billion dollars and decades of investment. It follows such stations are the precursors to any true spaceships.
Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO) any human missions will require a several thousand ton water-filled spinning construct and for pushing such a conveyance around the solar system chemical propulsion is essentially useless. Only nuclear energy will work and LEO is the worst place to acquire shielding, assemble, test, and launch any such nuclear mission. To go anywhere we must go to the Moon first.
LEO and Mars are a dead end on one hand and an impractical fantasy on the other; the only path to space is the Moon and that is not “flexible.”
Could get ugly. Better stock up on .22 rimfire.