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About SaturnianBlue

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  • Location Somewhere in the Laniakea Cluster
  • Interests Space exploration and colonization, astronomy, drawing, tropical weather, science fiction (the Expanse, especially), geography, history, WWII warships, the future, technology, science, and being acutely aware of procrastination... And doing little to stop it.

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  1. NASA SLS/Orion/Payloads

    Is SLS basically being developed at the worst time? It's being developed too early for the commercial rockets of similar size to enter service, but too late to really get much "use" out of it before it commercial launches start taking over.
  2. What funny/interesting thing happened in your life today?

    Finally finished my 53-page long submission for the Ames Space Settlement Competition—over 100 hours of work in a month. The person at the post office was a little confused by "Moffett Field" (Where NASA Ames is at, which is unincorporated and separate from nearby Mountain View) but I'm sure it is fine. Not sure what to do with my free time now that this is done... I guess it is time to get back to work in KSP! First I have to do homework (thankfully reduced, since we got snowed in).
  3. For Questions That Don't Merit Their Own Thread

    Instead of the classic approach to space-based solar power, which uses a solar array to generate electricity and transmit it down to Earth for collection, would it be better to have a solar mirror that reflects the light down to Earth for collection?
  4. My apologies if you've been patiently awaiting the next installment of Imagining a Kerbal Future—my life is currently a juggling act between some free time, studying for my semester finals, and my submission for the NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest, which has to arrive by mail on the 15th. I've learned quite a few things thanks to the latter that'll ultimately come back to benefit Imagining a Kerbal Future. 

    I hope to get part two of Moho's role in the Kerbol system in the next three weeks.

    Until then!


  5. I added a link to a podcast that discusses some of the major points of the report for anyone who doesn't want to read through the report. @DerekL1963 I think we've concluded that fuel production doesn't really work for profit. However, I found a fairly relevant bit from the podcast around the 50 minute mark, one of the questions points out that lifting by Falcon Heavy would probably be cheaper, and the answer was basically: 1. Falcon Heavy works best for LEO 2. Fuel at EML2 is more valuable, and the Falcon Heavy would have to use a lot of delta-V to get there 3. The fact is, they didn't do a proper economic analysis for propellant—the study is limited in scope and fairly low-budget ($100,000) as well, so they didn't consider the other options, like asteroids, Deimos, and from Earth Additionally, it was mentioned the study was more about achieving goals cheaper with a strategy (much like the COTS program) for deep space in general. In hindsight it was probably a poor idea for me to add "A Cheaper Way to the Moon" for the title, since that isn't really what the study is about. Something I found interesting from the podcast was the idea that billionaires but also countries would pay for a ticket to the moon, I suppose like how it is done on the Soyuz. Probably wouldn't be enough to pay off the base, but an idea nonetheless.
  6. That is the reason why in the next sentence I pointed out that any manufacturing plant would be "decades away" at best. I'm aware of that fact—if it was a mere engineering problem, then we probably would have a lot more in space. It appeared that this had the solution to the other problems, of course, but it does seem now that this is not exactly it. I would certainly think it is better than some other motivation thrown out there for putting infrastructure and a lot of resources into space, but it simply is not good enough, then. I suppose this report validates the notion that it really is hard to find a financial motive for settling space.
  7. The Cis-Lunar 1000 report implies that it would be cheaper to send payloads from the Lunar surface—of course, the Falcon 9 and other such vehicles are going to be making LEO a lot cheaper to reach, so that probably won't be true. Not an LEO depot—my thought was that you might be able to send down a tanker from EML2 to refuel something in LEO, though that too would be much less effective with a Falcon 9. I think our discussion of the ISRU aspect of the moon base basically puts forth that ISRU is not necessarily a profitable business for a moon base/EML2 propellant depot. What then, would be a better industry for either a Moon base or just cis-Lunar space in general?
  8. The report mentions that the Evolvable Lunar Architecture approach is based on urban design studies inspired by biological systems for a system that can be stable and be sustained through unexpected events. I cannot claim to have read this report, and I haven't really read the entire section dedicated to risk management for the plan, but it does mention one of the features of the system is that they can be adapted for change. As for a quick synopsis... The goal of the report was to assess if it was possible for America to help return to the Moon, establish a moon base with the help of private partnerships, all for the current human spaceflight budget. They found that they could return to the Moon for about $10 billion in the next 5-7 years if they had two competing commercial launch providers and set up a more permanent base a decade later and provide 200 MT an year for about $40 billion. An authority model based on CERN and transport authorities would be the best way to manage the risks involved in the project. I didn't say anything about the Atlas V or Delta IV being sustainable or anything. Part of the authority's role is to make it easier for private companies like SpaceX to do contracts. SpaceX can be part of the plan—the Falcon Heavy would be hugely beneficial by allowing for much larger spacecraft. Having an ISRU base would make more permanent habitats in space a lot easier by getting resources that usually have to be lifted from Earth. Now that I think about it, would the propellant depot even have to make a profit? As long as the private companies are paid more than they put into the project, and the governments get a cheaper ride in space, does it have to repay itself? I wouldn't say it's my own scheme—if you haven't yet, it would be best to look at the report itself. I certainly don't know every part of it—my main interest was with the authority system. As for space tugs, you could have them go down to LEO and push a spacecraft to where it needs to go, allowing spacecraft to be bigger for the same rocket. I suppose the issue with that would be the actual rendezvous process. Alternatively instead of a tug I suppose they can be made tankers instead. Right—mining on itself doesn't have benefit. However, if you could build a manufacturing plant, you could build in space without hauling things into space from the Earth and save considerable money. I understand that space manufacturing would be quite a few decades away, so that would not be an immediate benefit.
  9. Even if the US isn't being represented on the basis of financial contribution, they could still have a lot of leverage by controlling funding for the authority and threatening to decrease it in order to get the authority to do what the US wants it to. I think it's fairly plausible—for one thing, ULA already has plans for an orbital propellant depot in their cislunar 1000 plan, which is doubtless optimistic but it does show they have interest in that. Space-based propellant would make a lot of space industries more viable, like orbital tugs and asteroid mining.
  10. The executive summary sums up the points from the report rather succinctly, and the blog post is fairly short, so you don't really have to read word-for-word the entire report to get the main ideas. In the beginning the funding comes from governments, I believe, and the authority would sort of act like NASA with the COTS program. The advantage of the whole authority idea is that the authority can make more decisions themselves than NASA, so there aren't constant turnarounds in long-term priorities and less contract cancellations. Additionally, the fact that the authority is funded by multiple nations means that it isn't as bad if one nation decreases their support for the project to focus their priorities elsewhere. The authority is sort of like CERN or a Port Authority. Honestly I haven't looked at the moon base itself as much—I tended to focus on the organization itself. Of course new developments will appear during a long-term project, but couldn't the plan be readapted then? In some ways, the report partially does this by noting that the Delta IV-Heavy and the Atlas V is going to be replaced by the fully-upgraded Vulcan, which is more capable with its refillable ACES upper stage, which could be a customer for an ISRU propellant plant. The crew of four are on six-month rotations. Setting up an ISRU base allows the selling the propellant to NASA and others for a Mars mission or some other major project, with profit for the authority being made by charging a fee for using the services. The profit, in turn, can be used to make a more stable economic presence on the Moon by building necessary infrastructure too risky to build for most of the private companies.
  11. A few months ago I was browsing through Atomic Rockets when I stumbled upon a passage from a blog discussing the idea of developing a base on the moon with the help of an international authority-type organization to lead it all. The blog itself is based on a report titled "Economic Assessment and Systems Analysis of an Evolvable Lunar Architecture that Leverages Commercial Space Capabilities and Public-Private-Partnerships"—or just Evolvable Lunar Architecture. Recently I took a thorough read through the second part of the report for a big project I was working on, the part discussing the idea of an authority to help develop the Moon (the first discusses the more technical aspects of a moon base). With their approach, they believe it is possible to put people back on the moon in 5-7 years for $10 billion, and build a moon base a decade after that for $40 billion, considerably cheaper than any other approach. The authority seems to solve the issue of unsustainable long-term planning in government and the high risk factor for private enterprises. I can't say I find any major issues with the idea apart from the few outlined in the report, but I can't say I have a thorough understanding of business either. I'm curious as to what everyone else thinks of the idea. Personally, it seems like implementing the ideas from the report would make space travel in general a lot cheaper, and with it a lot more development in space with propellant depots and larger, more permanent space stations. The system could probably be applied to other projects as well. Edit: If you don't what to read the report, this podcast has the PI of the report discuss the key points of it. Here are two links to articles on the report as well.
  12. It's been a while since I last worked on that project. I'm quite busy now, but perhaps I can work on the Denmark Strait project again. Great attention to detail!
  13. Interception is even better if you can board the ships themselves, especially if something incredibly valuable, like intel of some sort, though boarding the ship would be very risky. This will probably mean the polar regions with their water will be favored even more, since they don't need to deploy the countermeasures against heat that leave equatorial habitats vulnerable.
  14. MOHO IN A COLONIZED KERBOL SYSTEM: PART ONE Chapter XXVII of Imagining a Kerbal Future Moho, the innermost planet, is hardly the centerpiece in a colonized Kerbol system, but it still has a role to play. Government The great mineral wealth, greater availability of energy, and cheap life support would make Moho an endearing target for corporations. The planet is unlikely to host a large population—there are better places to live. Additionally, the mining operations set up by the corporations would need fairly little Kerbal oversight. However, the resources and solar energy make it economically important. For governments, Moho isn’t a particularly interesting place to go. As for visionaries like Elon Kerman, why bother? It’s just a big metal ball near Kerbol—how about the ocean mun of Laythe instead? If there is enough demand to profit off mining Moho, thousands of kerbals will be needed to run a large-scale, highly profitable operation, so direct control from elsewhere (likely from a board of directors) would be out of the option. A form of representative democracy may arise, with some corporate representatives thrown in. As the corporation grows in power and profit, it may start acting more country-like, as it creates what are effectively laws, a military force, and various services to the colonists. As this happens, it will become increasingly harder for the home country to keep the corporation “in check”. AI may take over the job of government from lazy and unproductive kerbals, and hopefully the superintelligence of the AI will allow it to make wise judgements, with no opposition leading to ideally, effective leadership. However, an AI doesn’t have to be an all powerful leader—instead it could take roles in the government like: -Voting -A representative for AIs -Breaking ties or close votes -Acting as assistants and advisors to representatives and voters -Increase the efficiency and reliability of certain day to day operations, saving time and money Equator settlements may control a full belt around Moho, for circumnavigating settlements. The Issues of a Colonized Moho Even if an ideal future awaits Kerbalkind, the colonists of Moho will face many issues. The issues explored in here are the economic aspects—cultural and social issues of the era are better left to the reader. Corporations will likely exploit the water resources already there. Assuming fairly low amounts and an unwillingness to trade, conflict may break out as the few remaining water resources are claimed. Advances in AI and automation will advance to such a point that Kerbal oversight will be almost unnecessary. In this situation, what do the Moho kerbals do? Will they go back to where they came from, or will they stay? It’s not likely that kerbals would leave for more opportunity—automation would be taking over everywhere. A more likely motivation would be to return to where they came from, likely if the kerbal planned on returning anyway. If kerbals do stay behind, an important question must be answered: how would they receive money? We could also assume that there is no money, but that is a big can of... snacks. With few jobs, a universal basic income is probably the main form of payment one receives. One of the early incentives for colonizing Moho is the availability of energy for creating products such as electronics. However, this incentive is eroded by advances in low-cost fusion and beamed power, making energy-intensive activities more viable in energy-poor places, and making low Kerbol orbit solar farms, which Moho will likely manufacture less profitable. Additionally, advances in inventions such as 3D-printers will mean that most products can be produced even on small asteroid outposts. Lastly, the increased size of many colonies like those in the outer planets will mean that they will not be dependent on supplies from the inner planets. These shifts threaten the colonization of Moho, and either most settlements go defunct, or will have to find another source of profit. When such events happen will drastically change the course of Moho’s history—if the advancement of cheap fusion is swift, there may never be a significant presence on Moho, even of robots. If slow, Moho may be home to a few million kerbals, acting as a strategically important location in the Kerbol system. Military and War Preferably, there will never be a war among the stars. In that case, this section may be disregarded. However, a war in the stars is a popular backdrop for a story, so the scenario is considered. Why would they fight? The classic war of independence from an oppressive regime or megacorp doesn’t really work with Moho—the war would cost Moho customers or would be crushed. However, an independence war may work if it is part of a bigger independence movement across the Kerbol system, but only if those movements are able to unite. A power on Moho may also be drawn into the conflict simply by being in a larger group, where all members must aid an ally. If control over Moho is mostly in the hands of megacorps, military groups may be created to defend assets. Subcontractors that already produce weapons for other groups can be asked to build for the megacorp instead, allowing more complex weapons to be created, such as space-based defenses and such. This would set the stage for a conflict, which could be sparked by a power play by the various corporations to try to take parts of Moho, and hopefully obtain targets like water reservoirs, forcing others to depend on them. Another conflict could break out over a ring some kilometers across—this is an area where underground temperatures are perfect for kerbal living, which makes hosting the population on Moho much easier, especially if it is growing rapidly. A badly damaged dome. Hopefully the kerbals inside either evacuated or rushed to the shelters. Regardless, justifying the destruction a total war would cause is hard to do. In my opinion, there are certainly ways Moho could descend into war, but a full-scale war would generally be too destructive for factions only on Moho to fight, promoting a non-aggressive stance. There’s plenty of space on Moho, so there isn’t much territorial motivation, with the exception of water ice reservoirs. Perhaps small skirmishes could break out, but not war. Strategies and Weakpoints The most important target will be the water supply of the opposing side, forcing water use to be cut back in order to survive, and forcing water-consuming operations to shut down. Therefore, water supplies will be heavily guarded with laser and kinetic defenses to take out incoming projectiles before such damage is caused. Destroying or capturing the water supply will mean a greater emphasis on warfare near the poles—if the poles are conquered, the equatorial colonies will soon fall, without any access to water. Regardless of the water supply, most equatorial habitats would be easy targets to destroy. Circumnavigating mobile colonies cannot be placed underground, without an expensive option like a tunnel. To armor them above-ground would increase weight. Lastly, their movement is visible and trackable from above and their movement is predictable because they must stay on the terminator. Big and bright. Not exactly a stealth base, these mushroom habitats. Another equatorial habitat design, the “mushroom” habitat, has a solar mirror that would reflect light in order to control heat during the intense Moho day. This means reflecting the light, making it extremely reflective and visible to satellites. Once a significant fraction of water supplies are unusable for the enemy, the next priority will be the mass drivers or other large guns. Destroying mass drivers results in vastly decreased exports, resulting in much decreased profit. However, destroying them also means that they will have to be rebuilt, meaning that capturing the territory will of less value. These would probably be the deterrent, at least in a world without nuclear weapons. Any space-based mass driver is an ideal bombardment weapon that could launch massive projectiles that cause horrific damage, and would be nearly impossible to defend against, without the use of powerful defenses. This brings us to the next target, space superiority. This is where all the orbits of the planet are controlled by a single faction, resulting in the orbital mobility of the ships becoming unrestricted, paving the way for the destruction of the opposing side’s orbital forces. Orbital lasers would not exist to destroy incoming kinetics, and surface lasers may be unable to easily stop a low-altitude attack from the surface, with the target only being visible for seconds above the horizon. With that, the losing side is highly vulnerable to attack, and it will be difficult to recover. However, this amounts to a blockade, which would upset third party groups on Moho, making its use questionable in most instances. Defenses Lasers are probably the most dangerous thing to most of the habitats. Without an atmosphere to absorb the beam, there are no natural defenses aside from going underground. However, this also means that the defender has a stronger laser as well, and warships will have limited armor compared to the ground lasers. Kinetic defenses would not face atmospheric drag. Provided the target is close enough, and the defenses can shoot projectiles that reach very high velocities, they could deal serious damage to the stations in orbit, but so can lasers. A low speed would mean that the kinetics could be tracked and shot down, or they would be dodged. Missiles would be shot down due to their size, and would be the slowest of these options, giving plenty of time to target it. This concludes the first part of the Moho chapter. In part two, I’ll explore how a war scenario may play out, along with demographics, culture, and trade. Thanks for Reading! Next: Moho In A Colonized Kerbol System: Part Two
  15. Show off your awesome KSP pictures!

    A full size, rotating torus around Duna.