# Private enterprise space station

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by Michael 345, Feb 12, 2018.

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5. ### YazataValued Senior Member

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Great WaPo scoop, that proposal's been public for a long time. Everyone was talking about it a week ago around the time of the Falcon Heavy launch.

And don't let the words "Trump Administration" make your left-knees jerk. The Obama Administration had similar ideas. (The ideas are coming from NASA.) It's why the Obama Administration retired the Shuttle in favor of turning the routine function of accessing LEO over to contractors. That left the US without any means to fly humans into space for the better part of 10 years, but it created the void that SpaceX could fill with privately-developed Falcon9's and crew-Dragons (Boeing has a crew-capsule on its way too, and there's Sierra Nevada's Starchaser).

I like it. NASA only has a limited budget. The human manned-spaceflight part of it should be spent on exploration, on humans visiting distant new places. The more routine parts should be turned over to private contractors, whenever that's possible and it make financial sense.

Tying itself to 'white elephant' LEO manned projects effectively killed NASA and its late 60's pioneering spirit. Just think of the well-intentioned 'Space Shuttle' (that was supposed to open up cheap reusable access to orbit several times a month but turned out to be so complex it took all of NASA's resources just to keep it flying several times a year, turning NASA into a hugely-expensive space bus-line to a place it had already visited), and tying the Shuttle to the International Space Station, always a vehicle without a mission (except as someplace for the Shuttle to go), which was always more about international politics than space exploration.

If NASA ever wants to push out to the Moon and into the Solar System, it needs to free itself of the white elephants. They can hopefully convince the Europeans, Russians and Japanese who are currently invested in the Space Station that it was a good idea in its day, lots was learned using the space-lab modules they provided, but needs to be plowed under in its old age so that something new can grow. Suggest that they spend the money currently being spent on ISS on something cooler. How about an International Mars Expedition or an International Moon Base? (With SpaceX and other private contractors on board if they want to join.)

But the Space Station is kind of cool, it would be a shame to just kill it. So maybe it's time to hand NASA's role in it over to a contractor. Finding one that would want to do it will be difficult if there's no conceivable profitability. But SpaceX's efforts to make access to LEO affordable will help a lot.

Maybe some company can figure out something to do with it. The applications of LEO have always been more more about observing the Earth than about space exploration.

7. ### Gawdzilla SamaValued Senior Member

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So, the President-light, the guy who goes Chapter 11 when he runs a project into the ground, want to privatize space? NASA will be a penny stock.

8. ### orcotValued Senior Member

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A Private enterprise space station
will be constructerd when the price is right
In 2018 the russians where charging 81 million$a person for a ride up to the ISS link https://www.businessinsider.nl/nasa-buying-russian-soyuz-seats-2019-2017-1/?international=true&r=US tourist payed a average of$20 million link

NASA predicts that both will cost 58 million$a seat link whilst the rocket actualy cost are around 5-7 million$ a seat the rest would be the way space x and boeing make money (falcoln heavy did costs around half a billion to develop and the BFR is probably costly as well).

blue origin did a test in december see link (video) a inpressive craft look at the size of those windows
in fact we might see both boeing and space x launch their first mannend mission this year
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (uncrewed): April 2018 (dragon)
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): August 2018
Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): August 2018 (starliner/CST-100)
Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): November 2018
I hope they make it and that they make it in time.

I wonder what both will do with the price at 58 million they would play it safe and make a lot of money with a minimum of risk. Cheaper prices means they are competitive against each other more launches cheaper rockets and more change something goes wrong. 2018 might really turn out interesting

9. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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Great idea. Turn it over to a private company. The problem is here:

"ceasing to fund the orbiting lab by 2024."

Private companies require payment. You mention SpaceX's success; and that's a great example. They were a success because they had NASA to provide them a guaranteed market.

So a permanently manned orbiting space station, whose charter is research and development, is a "white elephant" but a trophy trip to the Moon is a good thing?

orcot likes this.
10. ### SarkusHippomonstrosesquippedalo phobeValued Senior Member

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I'm not sure the experiments they run in the ISS are necessarily worth the vast amount it coasts in upkeep. But that said, I do think it possibly has a place in the future of space exploration, if revamped to be the living quarters for people building interplanetary craft in orbit.

I would have thought that the most efficient way to get people and equipment to Mars is not to launch them from Earth's surface but to launch things into LEO, bolt them together and fuel the interplanetary craft there, then launch it. That way you can build larger craft etc. Otherwise you limit yourself to the size of the craft as that which can launch directly from the surface... which isn't large. Sure, the first few missions will undoubtedly launch from the surface, but longer term I would think a launch point from LEO would be the way to go (actual calculations not withstanding).

So if they ever choose to put a construction facility in LEO then the ISS could be revamped as worker's accommodation and offices etc.

11. ### Gawdzilla SamaValued Senior Member

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Hard to put a price tag on pure research.

12. ### YazataValued Senior Member

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Or the prospect of earning sufficient revenues somehow to justify the endeavor. It isn't clear what a private company could do with the ISS that would justify the expense of servicing it. That's why I don't anticipate finding sufficient corporate funding to keep the ISS alive.

I mentioned SpaceX because they have lowered the cost of access to low Earth orbit. That reduces that amount of revenue that the ISS would have to generate in order to be self-sustaining. If the day ever comes that re-usable boosters make access to LEO as cheap as an airline flight, then all kinds of possibilities open up.

That's true. But the fact that they charge about half of what competitors charge to put satellites in orbit has allowed them to dominate the commercial satellite launching market with their Falcon 9's. This year, SpaceX is scheduled to launch as many large satellites as the rest of the planet combined. Provided that each launch is profitable, that gives them a revenue stream. I think that they could probably survive without NASA at this point. (The Falcon Heavy was internally funded.)

I'm defining 'white elephant' to mean a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness. That's why it made sense to get rid of the Shuttle and it's why it makes equal sense to stop funding the ISS. Both represented huge ongoing expenses that dominated the NASA manned-spaceflight budget and made it effectively impossible for NASA to do anything new and exciting. (In the 1960's, who ever thought that NASA would turn into a space bus-line to nowhere, effectively trapped in low Earth orbit?)

Here's another option: If NASA defunds the ISS and if that's so terrible and intolerable, and if sufficient corporate funding isn't forthcoming (I don't think that it will be), then why not suggest that Europe increase its funding for ISS to cover the shortfall? (The always-supercilious Canadians could contribute.) Collectively, the European Union has a GDP as large as that of the United States. They already have their European Space Agency. They are already involved in the ISS and are familiar with it. (It often hosts European astronauts and some of its modules are European made.) The Russians and the Japanese might want to stay involved.

So why shouldn't they step up to the plate and take over primary responsibility for it while the US does more exciting things and pushes on deeper into the solar system? That would give Europe and Canada their own identity in space, their own big signature project, as opposed to their always playing low-budget Robin accompanying the American Batman. They could access it by chartering SpaceX Dragon crew-capsules or by designing a crew capsule of their own for the much more expensive French Ariane.

Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
13. ### YazataValued Senior Member

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That's an excellent suggestion. I've wondered about that myself. In fact, the Shuttle and the Space Station were originally sold with that idea in mind.

Right, it makes sense. I can imagine specialized vehicles: a large non-aerodynamic vacuum transit vehicle to go from Earth orbit to Mars orbit, plus specialized landers for traveling to and from the Martian surface. (That's how the movie The Martian envisioned it.)

Elon Musk's BFR-vision of of launching a single vehicle from the Earth's surface direct to the Martian surface doesn't seem nearly as efficient and realistic. (Even that scenario requires multiple orbital refuelings.)

The Falcon Heavy (and the other heavy-lift vehicles in development) seem perfect for delivering large heavy components to earth orbit, where they can be assembled into orbit-to-orbit interplanetary vehicles that will never enter a planet's atmosphere. (And the necessary landers along with the inevitable fuel that everything will require.) Lots of supply flights (maybe hundreds) to prepare for a deep space expedition and a massive assembly task in orbit that will require large crews. And orbital habitats to sustain them.

I think that's inevitable eventually. (Assuming that human beings continue with space travel, which isn't a sure thing.) There will be all kinds of orbital shipyards building deep space vehicles for travel to Mars and the outer planets.

Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
14. ### orcotValued Senior Member

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Why does this site keeps deleting my tekst and links quit frustrating.
anyway what happens on a average day in the iss
https://blogs.nasa.gov/stationreport/2018/02/12/iss-daily-summary-report-2122018/
69 Progress (69P) Launch Abort: Okay let's skip this one a rocket on earth didn't get launched
Rodent Research 6 (RR-6): this is relativly interesting mouse are abouth the biggest mammals you can keep in the ISS. Whilst sport is one way to reduce muscle loss drugs might be a other way. The experiment is actually running to a end having been ongoign between september 2017until februari 2018.
NASA itself actually gives a nice overview:
If not from this experiment I can see good things coming from this line of research
NanoRacks DreamUp Xtronaut Crystal Growth (DreamXCG): this is a weird one
So it promotes science but does it with filler test it gives no information on what type of Crystals are being created and the camera views of the Crystals aren't publicly avaible.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/xtronautiss/xtronaut-iss-experiments-in-space-and-earth-connec
Earth Imagery from ISS Target (EIISS): ah we've all seen those pictures astronauts actually need to make these pictures
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/top-15-earth-images-of-2015
Veg-03 Initiation:

The planting pillows seem stupid and unpractical but it reduces the microenviroment (bacteria and nutrients) to focus on the bigger stuff like lettuce, cabbage and mizuna alsa at 1.3 ft³that's a 40l tank that is quit big all things considered.
Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Preparations
mainly a maintenance and conference moment
Soyuz 52S Packing: It takes time to prep experiments for their return flight home.

Basicly what did they do yesterday?
Studied muscle loss and potential drug therapy in micro gravity, studied optimum plant growth, spend some time on PR taking photographs and learning kids abouth Crystals, did some maitenance. Considering they yust did a major space walk replacing parts of the canadarm and they will actually return this month. I would call it a productive day.

in all their mission (september-febrruari) focused on:
During Expedition 54, researchers will study bacteria, manufacture
fiber optics in microgravity, measure the total amount of sunlight Earth
receives, gather data on space debris in low-Earth orbit, and study selfreplicating
materials.

fiber optics in micro gravity would probably be the most commercial relevant product (for those who read Artemis by andy weir)
it would be nice if microgravity could produce a superior cable as they are light weight and would create a export product for locations as the moon. Helium 3 is cool but we don't have fusion plants yet.

I couldn't agree more with you billvon

15. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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Nothing; the ISS does basic science research, and that's the sort of research that does not turn a profit from years to decades.

For example, if there ever is a Mars mission, the lessons learned about semi-closed-loop environmental systems will be invaluable. And if someday there is commercial travel to Mars, then those lessons will enable much cheaper spacecraft. But that is decades away. Doesn't make it less important.
Agreed. Isn't it great that the US has provided funding to get us much closer to that point?
Maybe; it's 50/50 at this point. It is, however, fairly certain that they would abandon their work on manned spaceflight without guaranteed NASA revenue for that capability.
Hmm. I find a manned research station in Earth orbit to be pretty exciting - and a lot of work they are doing is quite new. The Bigelow module and the VASIMR engine are two upcoming new projects. (Bigelow is in process; VASIMR is planned.)
Given the amazing images (and science) coming from Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the asteroid belt lately, I don't share that opinion.
Sure. If they are willing to do that, great.

16. ### orcotValued Senior Member

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Funny for example that the UK for example does not cooperate to the ISS.

The ISS is financially weird. Sure the US payed for the biggest part sure but they haven't launched a single human sins 2011. That said The ISS has 3 main labs Columbus (european esa) the Jem (japanese axa) and the Destiny lab (US NASA). So you could argue Europa takes abouth 30% of the research of it's account. Esa also build the harmony and tranquility module. Meaning all the power distrubtion for the station happens trough these italian engineering (... my god). The tranquility module is the one that has the american toilet.
Now it would be far easier to argue that the US is the big boss of the ISS (and more accurate), but do not underestimate The other nations and do not underestimate the research that they do. Altough that isspresso 1,9 million to launch the unit alone. Still at least they can now enjoy espresso better then Scott Kelly's gorilla suit that is up there. So if ever you would see a live inside feet of the ISS and see a gorilla passing by it's possible.

Honnesty I wished europe invested more in space research I love the co ops with NASA but I wished they do some more projects on their own.

17. ### SarkusHippomonstrosesquippedalo phobeValued Senior Member

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I don't think ESA really have the budget to go it alone... and they can achieve far more in cooperation.
As the old adage goes: "'tis less than twice the price to feed twice as many people"... or maybe I just made that up... can't remember.

18. ### orcotValued Senior Member

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true still I wish they did more. That doesn't mean they do not do a lot. For the same I wished NASA roscosmos and the other space agencies did more. The real cost is still getting things into orbit. The moment this boddle neck is fixed is the moment space becomes really relevant.
This year for ESA I'm really looking forward to espresso link https://obswww.unige.ch/wordpress/espresso/science/exoplanets/
I wished their where many more. Technology doesn't seem to be evolving like it did 50-100 years ago when w went from the wright brothers to gagarin in less then 60 years. Still we haven't also got 2 world wars so we can't really complain