Concept Paper (2p): Reusable Interorbital Transport. 191120.v08
We are on the verge of cost efficient orbital entry, with the number of launch services providers and reusable rockets systems growing rapidly. Rockets are effective at creating tremendous thrust to push through the atmosphere and escape however this is not as cost or energy efficient for movement in the vacuum of space. All the pieces are in place for an alternative transport system that is a cheap and efficient way to travel between planetary orbits. This is driven by particle accelerator electromagnets & drone swarming technology applied in high earth orbit satellites. This innovative combination of known technologies will build a sustainable, reusable and mass producible interorbital transport system capable of establishing itself in orbit at any destination and transporting any cargo.
Reusable interorbital transport is as inevitable tomorrow as it is inconceivable today.
Multiple launch service companies are competing to drastically reduce the cost of reaching orbit with reusable rockets. Removing the barrier to orbital entry is driving tremendous growth in the private space sector but what is next after accessible orbital entry?
We live in a world where railguns and laser weapons are developed by the US Navy, where self driving cars are a matter of when, not if, and where mobile phones provide access to a globally linked knowledge store of our entire species accomplishments. Science fiction is increasingly becoming science fact, the right confluence of technologies can enable an idea once thought to be as impossible as wagons without horses. Interorbital transport systems are written about in uncountable science fiction novels, is it so surprising that a combination of existing technologies could be used to build one of these fictional systems in reality? Drone swarming videos, electromagnet research papers & engineering textbooks lead to the conclusion that this is entirely achievable today. Innovation does not always require us to build something new, it can be as simple as using something we already have in a different way.
This paper explains why developing cheap and efficient interorbital cargo transport doesn’t require technological innovation. The solution was developed by combining a high school experiment, a love of science fiction and readily available research in many engineering fields. To break the cost barrier that has prevented interorbital transport development, a slower but more cost efficient solution than using rockets to travel between planetary orbits is proposed.
The foremost reason for developing an interorbital transport network is simply survival. Currently our diverse species is populating multiple continents but only a single planet. Global warming is a planet-wide issue that we must face together and it will not be the last planetary risk that we must address. It is a simple risk assessment to see that another global threat will emerge eventually and currently all our eggs are in one basket. By choosing to divest our species across multiple planets we are not conceding defeat on global warming, instead we will address the climate change threat on two fronts to ensure our survival.
With our current rates of resource consumption, population growth and food production, a second risk is the limiting sum of sustainable global population. It is imperative we address a widening gap by expanding. The first space race accelerated computing & materials technology. With the maturation of those fields, we must address the human requirements that cheap and efficient interorbital transport brings. The next space race will come full circle to improve our agriculture as we move towards Martian colonisation.
Increasing the number of people on long interplanetary journeys will drive further development in vertical farming, self-sustaining biomes & lab manufactured meats. These advances in agricultural technology will be cost driven however will increase food production and availability on Earth. This is the next step for the foundation of technology that changed villages into cities. To get there, the railway of interorbital cargo shipping must be laid first.
Mass producible satellites swarming together will build manoeuvrable launch platforms using high strength superconductive electromagnets, initially designed for particle accelerators. Each satellite releases a pulse of energy that is harnessed by the swarms layered structure and combined to act as a high powered spring capable of launching and receiving any payload. This innovative combination of known technologies will be used to take our next step, efficient travel between planetary orbits. Creating any new destination for interorbital travel is as simple as launching a series of satellites to the desired destination where they will self-organise. The potential for rapid expansion is groundbreaking and Mars will be the first destination. Building cheap cargo transport services between planets is the key to propelling us forwards, an opportunity identical to the railway driven growth of the United States early years.
This trend is evident at many points in history. Expansion of transport and resource availability lead to ever greater numbers of people travelling for work, opportunity & tourism. Expansion generates demand for products across a wider area and providing an infrastructure network to meet that demand can build towns and expand cities. Reusable atmospheric rocket systems and mass producible interorbital transport will drastically drive the cost down of crossing the void. Efficient delivery of cargo and people will establish new markets at frontier locations with an dependent demand for products and services. Cheap cargo transport combined with rapid human transport are the required elements to achieve our next step. This mirrors the use of railroads for cargo while cars are used for people.
No one else has proposed a slow, cost efficient cargo transit solution for interorbital transport. This is a tremendous gap in the market. Cheap outsourcing of transport from Earth to interplanetary orbit allows people and businesses to look off-planet. Simultaneous development of cheap orbital entry and interorbital transport gives us a far greater reach all at once. By developing this capability using cargo transport we prepare for the next stage of expansion: exploration and colonisation. The benefits are tremendous and the risks of global warming & food deserts will soon be mitigated.
If work began tomorrow, it is projected that the first customer journey could commence at the end of Year 5 for $1.66b cost. The first year will validate system function and finalise satellite design. The second year will refine software, manufacturing and testing. The third year will validate operational procedures with test swarms before Martian orbital deployment begins. The fifth year will see the first return test flight and expansion of the first Martian swarm to operational readiness.
This is a condensed, costly but achievable time to market. There is a low risk of manufacturing delays as the required components are not new. This means the majority of delay risk will be in operational testing and design iteration. We then aim to expand the number of swarms & destinations.
Operation of the service will be low cost with further savings realised from mass production and swarm expansion. Geosynchronous orbital entry of a 2000 kg cargo costs $62m in 2018, interorbital transport of this payload will be priced at $10m. A gradually ramping launch schedule will see this project generate a profit in its fifth year of flight operations. The high upfront capital is offset by minimal operating costs in the same manner as many mining operations.
The H. Industries Mk.0 RITS will service scientific projects, supply delivery missions and mining venture establishment before & during crewed exploration missions. This cost efficient alternative to faster, more expensive rockets is for non-critical endeavours like the railroads of yore. By building the railroad of the modern era, H. Industries will help foster the next stage of colonisation and pioneering innovation.
Reaching Mars is achievable today with our current technology, the barrier is simply cost. Progress is driven by breaking cost barriers, if both orbital entry and interorbital transport can be delivered together effectively, what’s next?
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