6. Exploration of cost and architecture models for a Space-Based Economy

6.1 Introduction to the Space-Based Economy Concept

In this section we present an architecture which will lead to an expanding human presence beyond Earth, which will also provide a relevant framework for most of the advanced concepts presented by NIAC innovators.
 
Text Box: Timeime
 
 
 
 
 

Figure 6.1Evolution of the Space economy
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Figure 6.1 considers the evolution of space-related economic enterprise. In the 1950s the primary challenge was to develop launch vehicles and systems to reach outer space. In the 1960s to the present, space-related enterprise has developed with communication satellites, research probes, exploration missions, the remote sensing business, the Global Positioning System, and of course the vast range of military missions to Space. The Mir space station and the International Space Station have developed a rudimentary system of routine missions to Space with semi-permanent occupancy. In the near future, we expect to see a maintenance business developing, with the stated intention of the military to refuel their satellites in order to enable more frequent orbit changes as required to monitor evolving situations anywhere on the globe.

Once a refueling capability develops, many expensive 3rd stage cryogenic engines may become recoverable, and an associated maintenance business will develop. Orbit transfers will thus become more routine and less expensive. Repairing and refurbishing large satellites in GEO will then become economically attractive, with an attendant reduction in the risk and insurance premiums for launches to GEO. The need to build heavy redundancies into large satellites in order to achieve 30-year lifetimes will no longer be essential. With this will come a growing demand for stored spare parts, fuel and materials in orbit, with provisions for saving the fuel left over in launch vehicles, as well as STS main tanks. Thus it will develop the need for larger stations at Earth-Moon L-1 or L-5.

At this point, the exploitation of lunar resources, especially oxygen, becomes increasingly attractive. Once a demand for ISRU units for oxygen extraction arises on the Moon, concepts for lunar solar power also should develop. These in time should lead to a growing industrial presence on the Moon. These developments will, in time, lead to a demand for orbital habitats, and then to resource extraction from the Near-Earth Objects, which appear to be promising sources of water ice, carbon and metals. As these enterprises develop, the primary markets, and the primary suppliers, of Space-related business will be located away from Earth – a true Space-based economy. Given that resources accessible on Earth are only a very small fraction of Solar System resources, it is evident that the Space-based economy will surpass Earth’s within a relatively short time beyond this stage, and has boundless potential for growth Below, we examine the costs of accelerating much of this development sequence using a synergistic plan to develop the first large habitat. Once this project develops infrastructure, NEO resource extraction would become much more feasible – driving demand to build large habitats in the NEO region.
 
 
Abstract 
Intro
Theory
Near-term: Acoustic
Mid-Term: L2 Habitat
Space Economy 
Far-Term: Radio-Wave Construction
Comments
Issues
Conclusions
Acknowledgements
References

 

6.2 Arguments for a Space-Based Economy Approach to Building Habitats

The cost of building a habitat is dominated by the radiation shield and outer shell. With our proposed automatic technique, the cost of actually building the shell is made negligible in comparison with that of delivering the huge amount of material to L-2. The operating cost for this delivery is negligible (little recurring fuel cost except for orbit corrections of the Shepherds) compared to that of amortizing the electromagnetic launcher. The key to making such an immense project affordable is to ensure the congruence of various needs for such launchers on the Moon. Prior work on Space Manufacturing looks at manufacturing in space using non-Earth based resources and energy [35-38]. The Report of the National Commission on Space, 1986, [39, 40] emphasizes an economical, phased approach for space exploitation, which will be technically reasonable, and will support private enterprise. It focuses on the benefits that can accrue to humanity and the nation in particular. The report, however, stops short of outlining a clear vision of the concept that will integrate Science, Technology and Economics. That concept is the Space based Economy.

 

6.3 Snapshot of Today’s Space Economy 

The human presence beyond Earth today is limited to a very few dedicated government employees and robots who are dependent on Earth-launch of all resources except sunlight. The only permanent facility beyond Earth is the ISS, whose total living space is comparable to that of a classroom. While commercial spending on Space, worldwide, surpassed government spending as of 1997 [41], and the satellite business generated over $81B in revenue [42] in 2000, the Space industry and the exploration / utilization programs cannot be described as being "healthy". What Scientific American saw as the "Gold Rush into Low Earth Orbit" [43] in 1999 has stalled, with most launch system startups reported to be in trouble. NASA's X-30, X-33 and X-34 programs stand canceled. The Mars program has seen a dramatic drop in ambition level from "Permanent bases by 2018" in 1985, to "robotic exploration missions to Mars Orbit until 2020" in 2001 [44]. Cost "growths"[45] on the ISS have forced NASA to cut into even these modest plans in 2001. In an environment of declining public interest and funding, the scientific debate about Space priorities pits proponents of various approaches in conflicting positions, perhaps destroying support for all missions.

 

6.4 Differences in Proposed Approach

It is appropriate to ask: "What can be done differently to improve the rate of progress?" The literature on Space Commerce has focused on transportation, communication, remote sensing, and, to some extent, manufacturing. "Infrastructure" has usually been taken to mean Earth-based infrastructure [46-49]. Table 6.1 summarizes the differences in concept between today's Space economy, and a true Space-Based Economy (SBE). The SBE provides a vision, which unifies proponents of robotic exploration, human exploration, lunar resource utilization, and asteroidal resource utilization - who today compete, often destructively, for a diminishing pool of public support and funding. The SBE vision follows a 'policy resilient approach', which builds up infrastructure to support multiple uses and goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 6.2: Synergistic Architecture for the Habitat Project.

 


Abstract 
Intro
Theory
Near-term: Acoustic
Mid-Term: L2 Habitat
Space Economy 
Far-Term: Radio-Wave Construction
Comments
Issues
Conclusions
Acknowledgements
References

 

Table 6.1: Differences Between Today's Space Enterprise and a Space-Based Economy

Current models of Space Enterprise
Space-Based Economy
·Earth as the only possible market.
·“Faster-better-cheaper” to compete in today’s global business environment.

·Three-to-five year Return on Investment (ROI) expectation by investors.

·Terrestrial launch cost reduction as key enabler. 

·Lack of infrastructure for repair or resupply sharply heightens risk for all investors.

·Support constituency: NASA Centers, Space launch companies, space science community

·Competition for decreasing government funds forces adversarial competition between segments of the Space-enthusiast community 

·Limited and decreasing interest and funding

·  Most raw materials and products originate outside Earth
·Large Space-based infrastructure

·Extra-terrestrial raw materials extraction and processing,

·Large scale manufacturing capabilities in space,

·Exchange of products and services between space-based enterprises.

·Support constituency: diverse businesses and professions – broad cross-section of taxpaying public

·Required critical mass of funding and long-term investment rules out private funding. 

 
6.5 Educating the Public

The concept of a Space based Economy can bring various businesses together. The business plan of a single industry that may appear risky and unsubstantiated when viewed by itself, can become realistic when patched into the network of a Space based Economy. From discussions with various graduate classes on Strategic Marketing, we conclude that the key to attracting public interest is the provision of clear knowledge and methods to reduce risks and calculate business models. This process involves technical, economic and political aspects which we summarize below.  A detailed form of the Fishbone diagram shown in Fig. 6.2 can be used to develop every step needed for the SBE project. Technical risk can be reduced, and calculated, by developing alternative markets/ uses for all the technologies which require large investment in the process. Such a process will also clarify and allow articulation of  the relevance of the SBE to all segments of society. The availability of knowledge on what has been tried before, and on all the studies which have been performed, is a vital step towards such risk-reduction, and is being undertaken at Georgia Tech’s Center for a Space-Based Economy (CSBE).

 

Table 6.2: Steps in Articulating a Space-Based Economy

Setting up a space based Economy:

Key Requirements

·Give businesses a vision of the new markets to be explored and exploited in space.
·Bring together authorities from the Space Resource Utilization, tourism, construction, aerospace, and other businesses with visionaries on space exploration to work towards realizing this goal of a Space-Based economy.

·Outline key requirements needed to establish a space-based economy.

·Give examples of potential space business ventures to demonstrate feasibility of space-based businesses and benefits to exploration plans.

·Educate people about benefits to  standard of living. 

·Inform lawmakers of the prospects of improved tax base, and economic development of the nation as a whole.

·A clear vision of a Space-based economy, showing how most people and industries can consider themselves to be stakeholders in this endeavor.
·Belief that such a space-based economy will develop

·A credible plan on which to base this belief

·Concrete examples of ventures in space, and predicted returns to attract industry interest.

·Project planning, cost estimation and risk-reduction strategies to articulate the definite steps towards the space-based economy

·Communication of mutual interests between NASA, business, industry and lawmakers.


 
 
   
Abstract 
Intro
Theory
Near-term: Acoustic
Mid-Term: L2 Habitat
Space Economy 
Far-Term: Radio-Wave Construction
Comments
Issues
Conclusions
Acknowledgements
References

 

6.6 Cost Estimation Approaches

Several levels of estimation can be considered. An upper bound is obtained by the 'Delivered Cost Approach' [50] where the cost of materials delivered at a given point in Space would be limited (a) from above by the cost of getting similar materials delivered from Earth and (b) from below by the supplier demanding the most that the market will bear. This approach will result in few projects being feasible. Secondly, one can estimate the capital cost of constructing the entire Space-Based Economy. A third approach is to bring in all players at the outset, and figure the costs and risks to each, given the presence of the rest. Ignatiev [51] estimates a robotic 10,000 MW solar power plant on the Moon at $ 62B in year-2000 dollars. This will have a multi-customer base, including mining, fuel extraction, manufacturing and launch services. The cost for strip mining on the Moon is estimated as $3 B in year 1979 dollars [52], extrapolated using Consumer Price Index Inflation to $ 8B in 2000$. For the Lunar Launcher System, the cost in 1977, adjusted for inflation, gives a Present Value estimate of $8B.
As more businesses are enabled by the “assured market” of the Radiation Shied project, the required public funding drops. The requirement drops from $200B if the Shield is the only end-product, to $130B if it buys power from the lunar power plant while assuring the power-producers of demand during the initial decades of their production. With power, and materials available, the launcher cost comes down, again with an assured and diversified market to reduce risks in its development.

Figure 6.3: Artist’s Conception of an Acoustic Shaping Plant on the Moon. Courtesy, Justin Hausamann, Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Aerospace Engineering, 2000.






 
 
 
 
 
 
 

6.7 Summary of Industry & Infrastructure Bootstrapped by Habitat Project

The following extraterrestrial industries and infrastructure will be enabled in a synergistic Habitat project through the architecture that is described above. Each is provided with an assured market, both from the habitat project, and from the other projects enabled.

 
 
Abstract 
Intro
Theory
Near-term: Acoustic
Mid-Term: L2 Habitat
Space Economy 
Far-Term: Radio-Wave Construction
Comments
Issues
Conclusions
Acknowledgements
References

 

6.8 Total market for lunar resources due to the Habitat Project

The total markets for lunar resources, enables by the Habitat project, are summarized below. Details are given in the next section

Notes:

1. The Radiation shield of 2m regolith is extremely conservative, and used only for illustration of very large-scale mass transport. Concepts for lunar hotel radiation shields use 0.4m of water.

2. Professors Ignatiev and Criswell now estimate that beyond an installed capacity of 1GW, their solar-powered lunar power plants could generate electricity at a marginal cost below $0.01. We have not included this drop in our cost estimation.

 
 
Abstract 
Intro
Theory
Near-term: Acoustic
Mid-Term: L2 Habitat
Space Economy 
Far-Term: Radio-Wave Construction
Comments
Issues
Conclusions
Acknowledgements
References

ation, which outlines the Architecture of the Project. The Space Based Economy (SBE) concept helps in bringing together different technologies and enables them to reduce risks. This generic Architecture lays out a roadmap for SBE stakeholders in formulating plans that fit into the domain of the SBE. ucing H2O in the cylinder site may cut the mass requirement by a factor of 3

6.9 Architecture of the Space City Project:

It is a considerable challenge to argue in favor of the financial viability of Long term Space Projects, with their high risks and long gestation periods. It is vital to develop a coherent plan for the organization, which outlines the Architecture of the Project. The Space Based Economy (SBE) concept helps in bringing together different technologies and enables them to reduce risks. This generic Architecture lays out a roadmap for SBE stakeholders in formulating plans that fit into the domain of the SBE.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

6.10 Cost Model for the Space based Economy

In developing a cost and risk model for the project, we consider the implications of synergizing these technologies, with each providing assured markets  / supplies / raw materials for others. Alternative technologies are considered for each major component of the project. The risks associated with the project are mitigated by laying out alternative products and intermediate markets for each major technology developed for the project.

The Cost Model for the Space based Economy (SBE)TM follows a Cost-Technology Matrix Approach (C-TMA)TM. The matrix factors both the risks of technologies available and the market elasticity, in order to select from among the various technologies available in the SBE. This means that we not only weigh the various technologies available for a particular process quantitatively on the basis of cost, but also rank them qualitatively by risk-rating against Technology, Ecology and Political Environment. The technologies available are worked out based on expert group opinions and literature search. The risks of technical obsolescence, scalability and sustainability are weighed into the technological availability by using a weighted questionnaire that ranks individual technologies.  However, the unique aspect of a C-TMA is that the market elasticity of the chosen technology is taken into account. This is ideally done with the help of an Expert Group that assesses future markets for each technology using analogies, group discussions and extrapolation based on historic data. It is not possible to accurately forecast market demand for nascent technologies many years into the future. Also, prediction of a fixed market size could lead to errors in project planning. Thus the focus was on defining a credible range of future alternative users and assessing the demand elasticity for these technologies.

The most suitable technology is chosen by comparing the alternatives in the Cost-Technology Matrix (C-TM) TM against quantitative cost and qualitative risk terms. Once the most suitable technology is chosen and the Cost-Profit-Demand-Elasticity calculated, the Cost calculation of the Space City project can be done. The point to note is that the SBE not only helps the Space City project to choose among the various technologies, but also helps the Technology provider to know the Cost-Profit-Demand elasticity required to attract Capital funding. The SBE is the synergistic fulcrum that brings together the Technology providers into a common working space. The Cost Constants can be refined with the help of Expert Group analysis, extrapolation of earlier studies and analogies. The main Cost Drivers are identified as shown in Table 6.3. The cost analysis is also set up so that the elasticity of cost to these price constants could be calculated to find out the most probable cost as per Expert Group assessment. The final Cost assessment is given in Table 6.4.


Table 6.3 Cost-Drivers for the Cylindrical Habitat Project
 
Item Sub-item Cost in US$ (2002)
Units
References
Material Costs:
Cost of Steel on Earth
5
per kg
Present Cost
Cost of Aluminum on Earth
3
per kg
Present Cost
Cost of Iron on Earth
1
per kg
Present Cost
Cost of Steel on Moon
12.5
per kg
Expert Group
Cost of Aluminum on Moon
12.5
per kg
Expert Group
Cost of Iron on Moon
12.5
per kg
Expert Group
Cost of Concrete on Moon
5
per kg
Expert Group
Cost of Shepherd fuel on Moon
10
per kg
Expert Group
Cost of Regolith on Moon
0.06
per kg
Ref: Excavation costs for lunar materials, David Carrier
         
Launch Costs
Cost of Launch from Earth to L2
4000
per kg
Expert Group
Cost of Launch from Earth to Moon
5000
per kg
Expert Group
         
Power Costs Cost of Power on Moon
0.4
per KWH Ignatiev et al [51]
Cost of Solar panels at L2
50000
per sq m
Expert Group


 
 

Table 6.4 Final Cost Analysis for the Cylindrical Habitat Project
 
    in US BN $ (2002)        
Year Process Material Cost Earth Launch cost Launch Power Cost Power-L2 cost Fuel cost Total
1 & 2
Mass Driver Construction
6.5
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
6.5
Winch
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
Shepherds
0.0
0.0
1.0
0.0
31.8
32.8
Crawlers
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
3
Wire Grid
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
4 to 13
Boxcars
66.0
0.0
25.5
0.0
0.0
91.5
Spin-up city
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
               
  Total
72.5
0.1
26.5
0.0
31.8
130.8

Power Requirements: We assume an installed capacity of the Ignatiev Power plant of 1,000 MW, distributed around the lunar equator. The cost is assumed to be $ 0.40 per kWH.  Table 6.5 considers the launch requirements. From the table, we can see that the rated power capacity of the power plant is capable of supporting 6 launches an hour, with an excess of 18% for other uses, which amounts to 188,000 kW-h every hour.
 
 

Table 6.5 Power requirements 
 
Ignatiev power production: 1GW capacity    
 
3.6E+12
joules/hr    
 
1,000,000
kW-H- every hour  
6 launches/hr requires
811,988
kW-H- every hour  
Excess power available
188,012
kW-H- every hour
18.80119907
%

Excess Launch Capabilities: The exact requirement of the number of launchers for construction period of 10 years is 5.6 launchers. Since 6 launchers will be built, this gives a considerable excess launch capacity, which can be used for other applications. The details are shown in Table 6.6
 
 

Table 6.6 Launches available for other economic uses
 
Launches for other uses      
Time required for launch of all boxes with 6 launchers: 
9.307311091
years  
Time available for other launches
0.692688909
years  
Extra boxes that can be launched
36408
boxes  
Extra mass launch capability
6,104,271,627
kgs  
  can be used for other application launches

 
 
 
 
 
 
Abstract 
Intro
Theory
Near-term: Acoustic
Mid-Term: L2 Habitat
Space Economy 
Far-Term: Radio-Wave Construction
Comments
Issues
Conclusions
Acknowledgements
References


6.11 Technology Options

In this section, we lay out the conceptual process for reducing the risk and cost of the cylindrical habitat architecture. For each aspect, there are different competing technologies, of which one is taken as the preferred option, with alternatives which might become the preferred option if political or other technical developments so dictate.

  Power
Preferred Option:
Alternatives: 
·Lunar Solar-Power Fields made by robotic rovers.
-20 power plants around the equator

·Cost estimate: $0.40 per kilowatt-hr (Ignatiev et al)

·Nuclear Power Plant on the Moon
·Beamed Power from Space Solar Power Plant

 

Metal Mining & Extraction
 
Preferred Option:
Alternatives: 
·Lunar open-pit mines for iron (est: 4 – 15% of lunar soil is Fe, occurring mostly as oxides). 
·Solar-heated metal extraction processes – vapor separation more viable than chemical reduction?

·Robotic fabrication plant shipped to the Moon for box-cars, launcher rails, structural cables, conductors and magnets for launcher

·Pre-fab delivery from Earth using tethers. 
·Steel production on Mars, delivery to Moon. 

·Start with earth-delivered boxcars to build initial structure; Ship Fabrication plant to cylinder site; ship steel rods from Mars to cylinder site; land boxcars on Moon and re-use; 

·Asteroid resources.



Launchers from the Moon

Preferred Option: 
Alternatives: 
Electromagnetic rail launcher sized to launch boxcar-sized loads at 8G, with carriage returning to starting point. Some power is re-cycled during the deceleration leg.
Power from local plants. 

6 launchers placed around lunar Equator to enable round-the clock operation.

80-90% of power plant capacity utilized by Cylinder project for 10 years; 

Rest used for export of oxygen & tether counter-masses

Tethers and launchers form transportation system for industrial development on the Moon.

Tethers (problem: counterweight mass; repetition rate needed)
Nuclear rockets (need propellant gas)

 


Abstract 
Intro
Theory
Near-term: Acoustic
Mid-Term: L2 Habitat
Space Economy 
Far-Term: Radio-Wave Construction
Comments
Issues
Conclusions
Acknowledgements
References

6.12 Concluding Remarks on the Space-Based Economy Approach to Building Habitats

This chapter takes an initial look at the requirements for setting up a Space-Based Economy. The technical issues in building the massive radiation shield for a human settlement are reviewed in the light of today's capabilities for robotics and communication. By including the visions of several concepts such as lunar-based power, mass drivers and resource extraction, it is shown that the overall cost of such a major project can be brought down to imaginable levels. As more business visions are enabled by the assurance of a massive market provided by the infrastructure project, the level of public funding needed for the infrastructure comes down, even before tax revenues begin. The process for gathering public support for such an Economy is considered. Unlike today's exploration-focused government Space program, and isolated business plans for private ventures, the SBE can unite the public in supporting the Space enterprise. The relevance of this discussion to the present NIAC project is that it lays out the process for enabling the grand developments, which develop demand for extraterrestrial resources. This demand in turn sets the scene for the development of habitats to exploit resources from the Near Earth Object region, Mars, and beyond.  
 
 
Abstract 
Intro
Theory
Near-term: Acoustic
Mid-Term: L2 Habitat
Space Economy 
Far-Term: Radio-Wave Construction
Comments
Issues
Conclusions
Acknowledgements
References