Jump to content

Space Infrastructure at the Dawn of of the 31st Century (speculation)


Rakaydos
 Share

Recommended Posts

Without assuming new fundamental physics, there's been a lot of ideas floated as to make access to space, and access through space, cheaper and easier. I'm looking to compile a big list of TRL 4+ concepts. (so, no warp drive or wormholes. If an idea needs Multi-KM long carbon nanotubes, or a similar level of technological development, I'm assuming it isnt -completed- in the dawn of the 31 century and therefore not listed. if you disagree with my timeline, feel free to replace "31st Century" with "23rd century" or "40th century", whatever you believe fits)

Earth Launch:

Saber/Scramjet SSTO- Combining the dual-mode Jet/rocket Saber engine and the Scramjet high velocity air breathing engine to achieve the minimum fuel fraction to reach orbit in a reasonable amount of time, with direct reusability without staging (and thus stage recovery). Not being location specific, it will probably fill the suborbitl passsanger and light cargo market, but it's air breathing mass overhead makes it limited to earth orbit applications, with perhaps lunar L1 tether rendevous capability.

Airship to Orbit (ATO)- a launch architecture that uses lighter than air designs to eliminate any concern for gravity losses. The firststage is either an airship on a balloon- lifted tether that brings the cargo above 95% of the atmosphere, to the point where turbulence is no longer a structural concern. Once there, it is met by an Orbital Airship, a multi-KM low pressure lifting body dirigable with active (energy using) means of reducing skin drag. With no gravity losses due to a near-zero weight, and the ability to balance drag and aerodynamic lift in the upper atmosphere, it can spend a leisurely week or two building up to orbital velocity with high ISP engines. Base Ribbons can be constructed anywhere, and a low altitude airship can be flown in FROM anywhere, giving this approach the same flexiility and a significantly higher payload capability (being infinitely scalable) than the S/S SSTO above, at the cost of long flight durations.

Orion Nuclear Pulse Drive- North Korea demonstrated this launch capability -once-. China lifted it's protection of north Koea so the US could make sure North Korea never tried anything like it ever again. (While North Korea had the political will to nuke their own territory to reach space, China was less happy about receiving the wind-flown fallout)

Chimborazo Rail Launcher- a simple mass driver going up the western slope of the tallest mountian on the equator. Can launch any payload that fits in the mouth and can take the acceleration needed to reach 11 Km/sec in only 160 KM from the western seaboard.

Mutistage Reusable Beamed Microwave Thermal Rocket- A traditional style heavy lift rocket using beamed power to use a Thermal Rocket to put heavy payloads in space quickly, on any trajecory, from any location with line of sight to a microwave launch battery. Despite an improved efficency over 21st century rockets, it is still the most expensive option... but has the most marks in the "pro" column.

-Earth/Moon SoI-

Low earth transfer station: handles passangers, cargo, and fuel for earth launch vehicals and space transfer vehicals

Momentum Exchange Tether: (to be explained later- though suggestions welcome)

Geyosynchronus Kessler Ring/Geostationary Stations: partially cleaned up after a major disaster. Newer launch vehicals make fewer, larger instalations reasonable, and a modular design was instituted to make expansion more cost effective than creating a new debris ring.

Lunar L1 Tethers: three tethers passing through the earth moon L1 point, one to the lunar equator directly "below" the L1 point, the other two near the north and south poles, with trams available to reach the polar mining bases. The tether passes beyond the L1 point far enough that you can release a cargo (either from the lunar bases or the L1 station) into an atmosphere- skimming trajectory, setting it up for an aerobreak into either LEO or reentry-to-surface. Higher up the cable will release a payload in a Cable-to-Geosynchronus Orbit transfer, though this one requires rocket breaking when it reaches the GS Stations. at the L1 station, there is a zero g docking station to handle Interplanetary Transport Network traffic.

Lunar L2 tethers: The mirror of the L1 tethers, they also have trams to the polar stations, making overland transfer possible though not as efficent as an ITN flight. This outbound tether ha launch points from the L2 station, as well as Mars transfer, Mars Cycler Transfer (which is silightly more energetic) Venus and Venus Cycler transfers, and if materially possible a Jovian Transfer from the tip of the outbound tether's counterweight.

-Solar SoI-

Mars Cyclers: a set of solar-orbit stations in a Earth/Mars harmonic orbit- every 5 orbits a cycler passes one planet just outside it's SoI, and then passes by the other planet. 5 of the cyclers pass Earth before Mars, the other 5 pass mars before earth, so a round trip is possible. These stations have heavy radiation shielding, renewable life support, and zero-boiloff tanks for cryogenic fuels- everything that would be nice to have in an interplanetary vehical but you dont have the mass budget for, you dock with a Cycler and use theirs. Cycler orbits at a bit more DV heavy than a minimum energy transfer, but again, you dont need to carry your own stuff, so it's often a winning proposition.

Venus Cyclers and Jovian Cyclers: Similar to the mars cycler but with different harmonics. May be only partially complete by the 31st century due to little drive for human presence at Venus or the outer system.

Interplanetary Transport Network: Just read the link. It's a complicated, but very low energy concept that relies on an understanding of Lagrange points.

-Mars SoI-

Phobos Cable:

Phobos_Tether_by_Hop41.jpg

If materials permit, a direct jovian transfer would also be a good option.

-Venus SoI-

Soletta: A large solar station at the Venus-Sun L1 point. Actually just a bit on the Sun side of the L1 point, but using solar wind to stay balanced. The largest solar power plant in the System, it has a number of lasers and masers for pushing solar sail craft and thermal rockets elsewhere in the solar system, as well as beaming power to the venus instalations and manufacturing "bulk" antimatter (milligrams even!) in it's free time. It's so large, it blocks a measurable percentage of Venus's sunlight. While many of these applications would be more efficent in Mercury orbit or the mercury L1, Venus's atmosphere and resources make it a more useful gravitational anchor when it comes to trade with the rest of the solar system.

Atmo-Synchronus Stations: While Venus itself has a day comparable to it's year, it's atmosphere circles it every 48 hours or so, the Atmo-Synchronus stations stays above the cloud-factories, beaming power down to the night side.

Cloud Factories: O2 blimp-cities 50km over the surface, just above the Sulpheric Acid clouds. Using solar and beamed-microwave power, it cracks captured sulpheric acid and atmospheric Co2 and turns it into methane rocket fuel, O2, and bulk carbon and sulphur, the excess of which is dumped to the hellish landscape below. Between the solletta and the cloud factories, Venus is theoretically being terraformed... but that's just a side benifit of the mining process.

-Jupiter-

Jovian Slingshot: the classic answer to outer system exploration

Io Power Station: This one takes a little explanation- it's a massive Electrodynamic tether "falling" to Io while "dragging" on Jupiter's magnetic field, balancing these two forces to extract "free" power from Io's orbital velocity. This is possible because Io has no magnetic field, so an Electrotether gravatationally bound to Io is still interacting with Jupiter's magnetic field. How much power depends on how large you build your station and how close you get to Io.

Galilean research stations: basic scientific outposts above and on Io, Europa, Ganymede and Calista. I dunno if tethers are reasonable for the ground stations, but mass drivers should be.

-----------------------------

Did I miss anything interesting? what should I have added? What do you think is total bullcrap?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Io Power Station: This one takes a little explanation- it's a massive Electrodynamic tether "falling" to Io while "dragging" on Jupiter's magnetic field, balancing these two forces to extract "free" power from Io's orbital velocity. This is possible because Io has no magnetic field, so an Electrotether gravatationally bound to Io is still interacting with Jupiter's magnetic field. How much power depends on how large you build your station and how close you get to Io.

Interesting idea. I also had a similar one.

How do you want to stabilize that? Jupiter creates a tide force on Io which is 6000 times stronger than the Moon exerts on Earth. Can a station maintain a stable "orbit" under this condition?

As Io has no magnetic field it might be possible to lay tethers on the ground of Io. Jupiter would induce a current in the tethers. But is Io's surface stable enough for that? The moon has quite a lot of vulcanic activity.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Magbeams may be a good investment.

It's basically an ion engine fixed to a station, except that it can push payloads with magsails with the exhaust, using the interaction of magnetic fields between the magbeam and the magsail to maintain cohesion of the beam at a distance.

Uses propellant, but you don't have to dock with the boosting station to perform the maneuver, just pass on by. And you can use it anywhere you have propellant and energy.

So it's like having an ion drive on all your spacecraft with a magsail, without having to lug the propellant or a sizable reactor along.

- - - Updated - - -

The Interplanetary Network may not be good for much. Too slow.

- - - Updated - - -

Also, bulk carbon can be turned to carbon nanotubes, or graphene. Consider using that to make more cloud cities.

Between that and the fact that breathing air is a lifting gas in Venusian atmosphere, consider the effects of a housing boom in the Venusian Stratmosphere.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Prospectives that are 1000 years in the future are meaningless. Humanity, culture, civilization, politics, technology, and moral values will be completely alien to us, just like the World of the 21st century would be be completely unrecognizable to someone from the 11th century.

50 years ago, nobody even imagined the Internet and cell phones. 100 years ago, nobody imagined nuclear submarines and supersonic airliners. 200 years ago, nobody could imagine cars or movies.

Whatever the World becomes in just 100 years is simply unimaginable to us. Any predictions you might have in this thread will be as laughable in 100 years as the paintings of "the year 2000" from the the 19th Century. Let alone 1000 years !

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Air_firemens.jpg

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Lacest_fashion.jpg

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._School.jpg

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Whale_bus.jpg

For all we know, we might go extinct in 200 years, or we might regress into some dark ages, or we might be building colonies on Europa, or we might simply be turned into machine-fed larvae living in a matrix-like virtual reality with no need for space travel at all... My bet is on the latter.

Edited by Nibb31
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't quite agree with some of Nibb31's examples. Star Trek was originally aired in 1966 (just a shade under 50 years ago), and the classic flip-top communicator is a pretty fair imagining of a cell phone. Likewise, 20,000 leagues under the sea was published in 1870. Obviously it wasn't going to describe a nuclear powered submarine, but the basic idea of a very long range submarine is definitely there.

But that's just nit-picking really. I completely agree that 1000 year futurology predictions are meaningless. Also, for any sort of concerted move into space, we're going to need a) a good reason to go and B) sufficient maturity as a species that space looks like a good option compared to the alternatives. For example - continued population growth and overcrowding might provide an incentive, but the more likely outcome is population control via war and famine.

I'm not optimistic on point B).

If you want some optimistic science fiction though, here are my thoughts for the next hundred years.

Launching

Big stuff (read infrastructure creating infrastructure) is launched by SpaceX style reusable or partially reusable boosters. Crew and supplies are launched by Skylon or one of its descendants. First lunar space elevator is being constructed.

Infrastructure

Cis-lunar space is comparatively busy. Most space infrastructure is based on captured asteroids (capture, mine out, re-purpose), and is focused on mining/refining, tourism, supply depots and (slowly) off-world manufacturing. I'll go out on a limb and say power generation too. There is a moon base. Telescopes and other instruments have been set up on the moon, but they are largely autonomous and not permanent crewed installations.

Looking further afield

Elon Musk's vision of voyages to Mars is slowly taking shape. The asteroid belt is being mapped in detail by robotic probes. No human presence, or plans for human presence beyond Mars.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Technology always leaps around in impossible to imagine ways. We may be using launch systems similar to modern day ones, maybe we'll have collapsed into a new dark age, or perhaps we've made some major physics breakthrough that allows sci-fi like engines.

Predicting technology into the near future isn't too difficult but the further ahead you go, the more likely it is that it goes off in a tangent somewhere. (e.g. the internet)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Technology always leaps around in impossible to imagine ways. We may be using launch systems similar to modern day ones, maybe we'll have collapsed into a new dark age, or perhaps we've made some major physics breakthrough that allows sci-fi like engines.

What, like some sort of fancy electromagnetic drive that plays with space-time itself?

Oh wait...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What, like some sort of fancy electromagnetic drive that plays with space-time itself?

Oh wait...

Are you referring to the Emdrive or the alcubierre drive?

We have absolutely no idea if the Alcubierre drive is even possible. The maths may add up but we don't have a clue if we can ever do it. It may be that you require negative mass to get negative mass.

The Emdrive however... I'm going to wait for them to verify the tests before making any judgment on that...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The fundamental constraint on all this technology is energy, specifically energy that is easily portable. And portable energy on planet Earth has only ever had one solution, stored solar energy in the form of the remains of once living things. Current fossil fuel reserves will only last a couple of hundred years at the rate we're using them now. Once those run out, there's really nothing else. I mean maybe we'll be able to construct centralized nuclear fusion facilities, and in some locations distributed solar, wind, or geothermal energy solutions will work, but it will take a major revolution in manufacturing and transportation technology to maintain our technological civilization when portable energy is gone. I'm an electrical engineer. It is remarkable that I can buy hundreds of tiny resistors, identical and precise in their values and sizes to within 0.1% of specification, each for fractions of a cent. But it would take unimaginable technology and machinery and expense to construct them for myself. And they're used in nearly every electrical gadget you've ever seen. There is a hugely complex and bewildering array of machines and skills and materials necessary to build even the simplest piece of modern technology: an aluminum soda can or a coffee maker or a pre-fab bookcase. It's all got a sort of self-reinforced robustness: a worldwide system that leans on itself for support. But a large shock to the system, say a virulent plague that kills a significant percentage of us or a nuclear war among first world countries or a major economic collapse . . . or the depletion of our portable energy sources, could destabilize the whole thing. I think that's the most likely course of the next few hundred years. I don't think it'll be a return to the dark ages, per se, but I suspect the peak of our technological prowess lies within the next two hundred years or so, and that after will be a more prosaic, more static time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't quite agree with some of Nibb31's examples. Star Trek was originally aired in 1966 (just a shade under 50 years ago), and the classic flip-top communicator is a pretty fair imagining of a cell phone.

A strong argument could be made however that flip top cell phones were inspired by the startrek design instead. ST communicators to me at least appeared to be a compact, hand held, futuristic looking version of a 2 way radio, a fairly logical progression of wireless communication tech at the time. The design asthetic, particularly that flip top design later inspired the designers of cell phones years later when they came up with the look of the newest hand held communication tech. Less a case of predicting future tech accurately other than in the broad sense of having handheld communication and more a case of it guiding design when tech resembling what was on the show became avalible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The overriding premice of the OP is that 1) no new fundamental physics, so nothing like Warp or Gravity manipulation tht would change spaceflight as we know it, and 2) Enough lead time to take existing physics to the logical extreme. (well, almost to the logical extreme- as I said in the OP, I'm putting my foot down on long carbon nanotubes)

This is also meant to be an index for space infrastructure concepts like large "Space Colony" cycler stations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The fundamental constraint on all this technology is energy, specifically energy that is easily portable.

The wild card that nobody has mentioned yet is true machine intelligence. Nobody can say what will happen if we ever develop true AIs. They may keep us as pets, they may cohabitate this planet with its existing biological beings, or they may just bugger off and expand into the solar system and beyond. It is anybody's guess. No matter what, the implications on what the world will be like in 1000 years will be huge.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The wild card that nobody has mentioned yet is true machine intelligence. Nobody can say what will happen if we ever develop true AIs. They may keep us as pets, they may cohabitate this planet with its existing biological beings, or they may just bugger off and expand into the solar system and beyond. It is anybody's guess. No matter what, the implications on what the world will be like in 1000 years will be huge.

What does machine inteligence have to do with infrastructure? even a hyperinteligent AI cannot change the laws of physics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

even a hyperinteligent AI cannot change the laws of physics.

No, but machines can survive in places we can't very readily. A hyper-intelligent AI would be capable of utilizing different infrastructure than we can for that reason. They may compete with us for available land and resources, or they could just bugger off and go somewhere else where they won't need to compete with us. Either way, it will affect the infrastructure that is available to us and that we will have to work around.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My prediction is that there will be no major change in space exploration infrastructure. The laws of physics will remain the same, interstellar travel will remain impractical, there will be no free lunch, and we'll eventually accept the fact that there is nothing out there for us.

As a species, we might finally realize that the only hospitable place for us to live is here. There is no point in colonizing planets where we can't survive without a full EVA suit and constant supplies. Sending people into space will always costs huge amounts of energy for very little benefit. It will remain a niche activity, for research and the occasional rich person's joyride.

As for the thrill of exploration, discovery, and adventure, we can have it by plugging a connector into our spinal cord. When the VR experience becomes indistinguishable from reality, we will no longer need to risk our lives or spend valuable resources travelling to the stars or anywhere else. Space travel, like any sort of travel, becomes useless to us. We free ourselves from the physical world, we transcend our physical bodies and become all-powerful. Instead of exploring the universe and hitting physical barriers, we get to the stage where we can create our own universe without barriers.

And then somebody, somewhere in that virtual universe stumbles on this thread and has a good laugh at all the silly ideas about space infrastructure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nobody can say what will happen if we ever develop true AIs.

My personal speculation is that machine non-intelligent lifeforms could emerge and come to dominate virtual spaces, evolving and competing for resources like memory, network bandwidth, CPU cycles, and electrical power. Could be these 'synthesismsâ„¢' (<-- I just coined this neologism) will crowd out both emergent AIs and human users of these spaces. (And I seriously doubt we'll ever see any machine intelligence beyond very good expert systems.) Peter Watts sort of imagines this scenario in his Rifter trilogy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That settles it, never listening to Nibbs opinion again...

Give up on space travel, its all pointless.

Did I say it was pointless? My point was that in 1000 years, people's mentalities and preoccupations will be totally unrecognizable to us. Humanity will have evolved into something completely different from anything we know. So yes, space travel might turn out to be irrelevant to them and a technological dead end. Why would my made-up predictions be any more unrealistic than somebody else's?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not wholly share Nibb's view of the future, but I think that the point that Nibb is making is well worth noting. A millennium is a long time, and a thousand years ago, the world was a different place as far as humans are concerned. the Americans did not know of Eurasia, the Eurasians knew not of America. The planet was vast and unknown. Printing hap yet to really gain importance, and many ideas, such as of what today is basic physics and high school level mathematics, did not exist in anyone's understanding. Anywhere.

We like to talk about the significant changes that have occurred in the past century, the advent of the Internet, the development of spaceflight, jet engines, practical computers and growth in economic globalization, and these are important certainly. If all that can happen in a hundred years (a person's lifetime, now at least), think of what can happen in ten of those.

I have read a number of books predicting the future over various spans, from 'Future Shock', to 'Looking Backward', to even '2001', if you count that. If there is one thing they share in common, it is that they are wrong. Bits have levels of correctness, but as specificity deepens, and as span increases, incorrectness mounts. By 3001, the governments may be driven by religions based on people alive today, religions that will seem to go back for ages, to the people alive at that point. The world may be in ruins after a devastating nuclear war that caused a several hundred thousand year cool period on the surface, all humans may be dead. Who knows?

This thread is about speculation, as far as I can tell, but any speculation should be taken with a heavy skepticism, even if it is founded on clear rationale. Nibb's predictions are seeming to generate criticism, though, not because they are any less founded than the other speculations, but because they are not in line with the opinions of those listening. We should be able to disagree (I see no reason to believe any of the predictions made here, to be perfectly honest), but still treat each other with respect.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nibb31 has a good point. I also believe mankind will change to something we can't imagine.

But I don't think it will stop with a simple "USB port" in our spinal cord. In my opinion future humans will be genetically engineered or a ghost in a shell (yeah, I like that movie). I mean look at us now: We stopped our evolution by inventing medicine. Nature almost can't threaten our lives anymore except for major natural disasters. We are able to change our enviroment as we like. So what is left for us to do? What can we do we couldn't in the past?

I predict within 100 years there will be a drug which eliminates the most common genetic defects forever. Within 200 years we won't get ill anymore. Also we'll be able to replace organs and limbs with high-end prostetics which are better than our natural ones (think of Deus Ex) or just grow them back. Within 400 years the first human will abandon his body and start to live in a computer.

Yeah there'll be people who don't want that but I'm sure even they will accept the change when they see their child healed by modern medicine. I hope.

Edited by *Aqua*
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again, this thread is going afield. It is supposed to focus entirely on SPACE INFRASTRUCTURE of the future, with our CURRENT understanding of physics.

10 Venus Cyclers and 14 Mars cyclers as large space stations with permanant populations to support the transient populations... feasable?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

but the more likely outcome is population control via war and famine.

I disagree because development has slowed, halted, and reversed population growth in the United States and European Union.

---

Should developing Earth require more minerals than it has, we might get them from asteroids. Finding, studying, returning, and landing these enormous stones would be so hard as to necessitate some combination of new technologies and epic, brute-force efforts. Consider for example a traditional NERVA-powered tug, which would need about six kilometers-per-second delta-V and mass eighty-six tons just to retrieve a one-ton asteroid. For five hundred million dollars, a block II SLS could lift it to low earth orbit. Recovering the investment would require, for further example, about a kilogram of platinum. The enormous cost of launch and recovery would make on-site refining and orbital refueling of mining rigs imperative: one one-ton payload of pure platinum would be worth only forty-million dollars.

A break-even payload therefore would 12.5 tons. If the engine massed thirty-five and the gear five, then the inbound trip would require about twenty tons of propellant. Moving about fifty tons of mass into the asteroid belt (no payload) would require about sixty tons of propellant. The overall non-payload-mass would be about one-hundred-ten tons--a respectable ~1/10 payload fraction. Refueling in low-earth-orbit would enable even greater payloads by permitting every SLS launch to be propellant alone. Were the refueling tanks' mass fraction a handy 1/13, the refueled tug would have 40 tons dry mass and 160 tons wet mass, granting an empty delta-V of over nine thousaaaaand (~10km/s). Forty-seven tons could be used to bring the tug to the belt, leaving seventy-three to move up to about thirty-six tons of platinum home, thereby tripling revenue and generating a per-trip profit of about a billion dollars.

The necessary investment for commercial production is beyond me. If the tug and mining equipment cost half a billion each, establishing and maintaining the company another billion, and two launches done before first revenue, then it would be five-billion dollars. With constant platinum prices and a one-year setup and launch every year, the business would pay for itself in eight years. So, who's ready to make some money?

-Duxwing

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This thread is quite old. Please consider starting a new thread rather than reviving this one.

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...