10. Conclusions

At the core of this project is the realization that solid objects ranging in size from millimeters to kilometers can be assembled automatically into specified complex shapes using potential force fields.  Interesting shapes can be tailored using the standing waves of an unsteady potential force field. A multitude of objects can be made to simultaneously arrange themselves along specified surfaces. We have demonstrated this concept in microgravity flight and ground-based experiments. Tailored Force Fields (TFF) could work over a wide range of sizes and force fields. Specifically, this enables the primary goal of NASA’s HEDS Grand challenge: the development of “safe, fully self-sustaining integrated human and robotic presence in space and on other planets, independent from Earth and for indefinite periods of time”.

10.1 Conclusions reached in the Phase 1 project

  1. Tailored electromagnetic force fields enable massive automated construction at low recurring cost.
  1. Theoretical approaches to acoustic, optical and electromagnetic force fields have been unified into a common Rayleigh regime prediction capability.
  1. The use of resonators offers a large (3 orders of magnitude) increase in radiation force, and up to 7 orders of magnitude increase in trap stability.
  1. Acoustic shaping proven in flight and ground experiments.
  1. Optical trapping proven in microscopy.
  1. Microwave and radio wave TFF are efficient in solar-power usage for construction.
  1. Costing using a Space-Based Economy approach illustrated using the middle term radiation shield project.
  1. Quasi-steady magnetic fields enable telepresence-controlled construction of the radiation shield for human settlements near Earth.
  1. Overall cost becomes practical when lunar- and Space-based industries are included.
  1. Unlike exploration-focused government programs and isolated business plans for private ventures, a Space-Based Economy approach can unite public support for Space enterprise.
  1. As more business visions are enabled by the assurance of a massive market provided by the infrastructure project, the level of public funding needed comes down, even before tax revenues.
  1. Coherent plan needs to be articulated for developing a mutually-supportive network of economically-useful projects, with synergistic markets, risk evaluation and pricing.

10.2 Application Relevance

Previous conceptual studies of large human colonies away from Earth [1-2] have answered several of the concerns expressed by NIAC reviewers.

Why think of  a Space-Based Economy at all?   Today’s Space programs are driven to miniaturization by the Launch Cost Barrier. Today’s generation must face the reality that only a few Government employees and billionaires will fly in Space in the next 20 years under present plans. Public support for the Space program appears to have peaked. Competing Mission Plans fight for a declining pool of Science dollars – destroying each other. Our solution [6-10] is in resonance with strategic planners [1-2,11] – a coherent, synergistic plan for a Space-Based Economy – one where the Suppliers, Raw Materials, Infrastructure, Manufacturers and end-users are all away from Earth, with little dependence on Earth for bulk materials.

Why Build Large Settlements in Space?   For the same reasons why humans quit living in caves or tents in the boonies, and move to big cities. Economies of scale. Scope for derivative / advanced professions. Co-location of essential facilities. Shared concern over problems – shared cost of solutions. Better living standards. The critical population size to make a Space colony viable as an economic entity is estimated to be in the several thousands [4]

Why not on a planetary surface?  There is no sense in commuting from the gravity well of the lunar surface if one’s job is, say, maintaining satellites or power plants in GEO. The main attraction of a lunar cave is protection from radiation – a problem being solved here.

Other findings:  Within a generation, the “unnatural” aspects of living in variable-gravity will have become “natural”.  Project times of 10-20 yrs and $100B budgets are acceptable – the ISS was started circa 1984 with completion scheduled for 2005, with total program cost [12]over $100B – with no promise of  rapid economic expansion in Space. We tie our project into a comprehensive plan for a Space-Based Economy.


Near-term: Acoustic
Mid-Term: L2 Habitat
Space Economy
Far-Term: Radio-Wave Construction