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Konstantin Tsiolkovsky: “Man will not always stay on Earth; the pursuit of light and space will lead him to penetrate the bounds of the atmosphere, timidly at first, but in the end to conquer the whole of solar space.”
I guess the words of Tsiolkovsky can be continued: ‘’and then will conquer the entire space of the universe.’’ Expansion is not always evil; it is, first, the evolutionary need to move forward for the survival of the species. As long as humankind has room to move — the cosmos, we only need to understand how to subdue it. The twentieth century was marked by the flight of man into space. The first steps have been taken for the practical development of near space. The spacecraft flying in the far expanses of the Universe. Now we can talk about the cosmic habitat. Humanity is already firmly exploring the cosmos. With the help of spacecraft, radiation belts around the Earth, the solar wind, the Earth’s magnetosphere were discovered, the Moon, its soil and atmosphere were investigated as well. We began to study other planets of the solar system, the Earth is zoned in order to detect natural wealth, weather is predicted, a more accurate geography of the Earth is made, satellite communications are established, ships from outer space are helped, and much more. What does humanity expect in the 21st century? It is hard to answer this question. Forecasts are moody. In addition, predicting a cosmic future is not easy. K.E. Tsiolkovsky gave 16 stages of space exploration. Currently, astronautics is developing according to Tsiolkovsky, and we are already at the eighth stage. That is, half passed. In what areas will cosmonautics develop in the near future? First of all, we will be interested in space industrialization, which will allow us to carry out technological processes in space orbits that cannot be carried out on Earth, use the achievements of space activity in the national economy, travel to the planets of the solar system, and especially to the Moon, Mars, Venus. Where necessary we will have the technology to “breathe” earthly life into the colonization of new planets, and much more that seems absurd today, but will be traditional tomorrow.
In the Kondratieff theory of technological waves, the third — from 1875 — marks the era of steel, electricity and heavy industry, the fourth — from 1908 — the era of oil, automobiles and mass production, the fifth — from 1971 — the era of information and telecommunications. All in anticipation of the sixth wave — the era of either bio, or nanotech, or new energy, or the complete greening of the industry, but my subjective feeling is that the sixth wave should be connected precisely with the industrialization of space. You know — it has already started, since 2002, with the advent of the SpaceX project, as far as it is not enchanting, but a fact is a fact. Since 2008, it was SpaceX and Elon Musk who opened the era of commercial space and launched the industrialization processes of our cradle. The space has long been accessible, but the conquest of the solar system by people still has not left the stage of trial visits. Moreover, the full-scale cosmic expansion was hindered not so much by the high cost of flights, as by the traditionalism of the state’s policy on Earth, as an institution of human civilization toward outer space, the attitude to it as an instrument of scientific propaganda, but not as an instrument for the development and expansion of all whole humankind. Now, new and private business groups with practical programs that can transfer astronautics into new channels have begun to join space exploration. The example that I mentioned in the case of Space X. Representatives of the scientific community, as well as companies operating in the space industry, regularly offer something for the public’s needs. Of greatest interest are such areas of their work as the installation of settlements into orbit of the Earth, the construction of bases on the lunar surface, as well as the expansion and terraforming of Mars. The media enthusiastically picks up these topics, and industry representatives do not get tired of throwing something fresh. But so far, basically, the cosmonautics has been adrift, and its activity has been limited to launching artificial satellites and servicing the operating ISS (International Space Station).
Let’s see what today prevents a human from freely surfing into the space:
· Firstly, the lack of the necessary engines capable of giving the right speed to the spacecraft
· Secondly, space navigation systems are at an extremely low level of development. The main network used to provide communications for the vast majority of spacecraft is DeepSpaceNetwork. It is able to work efficiently only at a relatively small distance from the Earth and cannot be used for flights over long distances — although radio waves travel at the speed of light, transmitting signals into deep space still takes hours
· Thirdly, which is especially important, launch vehicles, without which you can’t take off from the Earth ground, have extremely low efficiency, and they are environmentally extremely dangerous. For example, if we take into account all the flight and pre-flight costs and energy losses, then the efficiency of the rocket is less than one percent
Experts say that the maximum permissible productivity of the entire world space-rocket complex at present is so far less than a thousand tons of cargo per year, which is at a prehistoric level of productivity. With the fabulously high cost of transportation — the delivery of each ton of cargo into orbit costs about $10 million. In such parameters, industrialization is absurd from an economic point of view. However, humanity must go into space. It can be assumed that the new concept of private space exploration will provide the basis for launching an industrial space exploration system that makes it profitable to combine different programs related to space resources and services into a single structure, the global “Space Corporation”. We understand that today and even tomorrow is still an idea fix. But today, in the press media you can find the answers, and what such a group will do and what exactly today can define the concept of ‘’Space Industrialization’’. What directions and what issues will be addressed, what goals does this term mean by itself:
Obviously, the satellite constellation and the information services provided by satellites are cost-effective and deeply integrated into the global Earth information environment. Satellite constellation and space information services is the first stage of large-scale practical space exploration. Satellites cannot serve as a means of mastering the solar system, since they are orbiting vehicles, part of the earth’s information infrastructure. But the satellite constellation can serve as a basis for the development of a new stage in the industrialization of space, associated with the development of infrastructure for putting satellites into orbit, transportation and maintenance of these devices in outer space. Such infrastructure will be an add-on over the satellite constellation, which from an economic point of view will be part of the space services sector and will have economic soil under it. From a technical point of view, it will be a full-fledged industrial system capable of a variety of activities related to transport services, installation, maintenance, production and practical development of alien raw materials and serving as a prototype of the future space industry.
Orbital logistics: in-line launch system, orbital transport system, fuel and raw materials base on the Moon. The initial industrialization of outer space should consist of several basic infrastructural systems: a stream system of launch, which allows to reduce the cost of delivering goods into orbit; groupings of orbital multifunctional vehicles/ships, which are a constant and inexpensive transport system for movement in outer space; the raw material base on the Moon, which serves as the main source of fuel for orbiting vehicles/tugs and mineral raw materials for processing at orbital stations; and a large near-Earth manned station, which serves as the main reference base for conducting diverse, complex human activities in space and acting as a transport hub.
As if this is what should become the basis for strategic space industrialization, in principle, logically, without these conditions and opportunities, there can be no question of human expansion in space. Nevertheless, before the large-scale industrialization of space begins, the near-Earth constellation of satellites and the industrial constellation serving them must go through a qualitative modernization of satellite communications systems and the development of space solar energy at a minimum. Modernization of satellite communications should take place due to the transition to satellite systems of a larger area and power, which should be mounted at orbital stations from modular units and have sufficient strength to support communications through cellular, television and radio channels. This will make information services universally available, regardless of ground stations. At least dozens of times expand the space services market (scalability). After the advent of low-cost infrastructure transportation systems and installation centers in space, it will be profitable to build powerful solar power plants. Orbiting solar power plants will be powered by the natural fusion reactor of the solar system. Their energy will be inexpensive, environmentally friendly and virtually inexhaustible. Nowadays, solar power plant projects are unprofitable, but the emergence of space infrastructure may make them the most promising direction in the development of energy, able to displace traditional fossil, organic or nuclear power plants and occupy a dominant position in the global energy market. The direction of space solar energy can make astronautics one of the most important world industries, which has trillions of revolutions and involves major investments in its development. After passing through the growth stage associated with solar energy, the process of space industrialization will receive sufficient power and technological development level so that further growth ceases to be limited to servicing near-Earth spacecraft and begins to spread to the space of the solar system. What are the growth prospects?
A change in the technological mode has already begun, involving the transition from traditional production equipment to branched production chains, from raw materials to the final product, to universal machines that will reduce the entire production chain to just a few small machines and at the same time get a variety of finished products of high complexity. The most famous example of a “new industrialization cycle” machine is a 3D printer and replicators. A change in technological mode will revolutionize the manufacturing sector and make available the large-scale industrialization of space. It is prohibitively expensive to transfer a traditional enterprise into space in order to make building structures, all-terrain vehicles and production equipment capable of independent reproduction of production capacities on it. But the production chain, based on the new cycle machines, can be placed in a standard space module weighing twenty tons. At the same time, the production module will operate in an almost completely closed cycle, having the ability to both receive finished products from the original mineral raw materials and produce its own copies, the same modules equipped with machine tools. And this will make it possible to begin the industrialization of other planets by sending only a few production modules and universal robots to them, which will duplicate each other and build infrastructure. This will tremendously reduce the start-up costs of creating space enterprises to several hundred million or several billion dollars, which are usual for large businesses. After the appearance of the raw material base on the moon, the development of alien raw materials will begin, which will be prompted by its relative cheapness. With the further development of industrial infrastructure, production activities will also develop and become more complex. The production will be more high-tech, capable of producing not only simple parts and structures, but also complex finished products, such as modules for manned stations, spacecraft hulls, all-terrain vehicles to work on the Moon, or mechanical equipment for lunar or alien bases.
We have already said that without the development of communications provided by satellite infrastructure, space exploration will not be effective. It is also worth mentioning the space Internet, and all the opportunities that it gives on Earth will be available in space. Yep, we are talking about blockchain technology in space and the use of cryptocurrencies to finance the needs for space exploration from space itself. After all, what do you think, when colonizing other planets, a person will carry gold bars from the Earth or empty dollar bills with him? I don’t think so, because with regard to gold, it is quite likely that in the future we will have resource access to it from asteroids and mines on other planets, which in the future will deprive gold of its accumulation status and its cost will be significantly depleted. However, with regard to cryptocurrency, which does not have physical activity, but with the help of technology it has virtual value and useful user properties, including as a means of payment, the perspectives are more than optimistic for the development of the financial infrastructure of space production and the space economy. In 2019, the European Space Agency granted the SpaceChain crypto project. The objective of the project is to build a satellite blockchain system. According to the idea, it will be much safer than the “earthly” blockchains. In the SpaceChain system, for a transaction to succeed, you must obtain approval from three nodes. Two of them are on Earth, and the third — in orbit, in the future, all nodes — will be in orbit. What do you think what for? And do you really think that there are idiots in the European Space Agency? Of course, not, so their goal is to look forward and look for future.
The proposed concept for the development of the space industry makes it possible to start creating an extraterrestrial industrial system in the near future and ensure its steady growth, right up to the stage of industrial development of the solar system. One can agree that the full-scale practical exploration of outer space promises fantastic prospects for the development of the economy. But while the proposed concepts being discussed are copying the development of industry on Earth without taking into account specific space conditions. Unlike Earth, in space there are high transport costs, but a lot of energy and many easily accessible mineral resources. The concepts under discussion provide for the construction of space enterprises of raw materials through the delivery of equipment from Earth. But the cost of moving space industrial capacities into space is so great that such programs will be super-expensive and super-long-term, pointless from a commercial point of view. Or to implement such programs, you will need completely new, cheap spacecraft, for example, with thermonuclear engines, the creation of which is impossible on the basis of modern technologies or with the Alcubierre WARP engine (movement due to waves that simultaneously compress the space in front of the ship and stretch the space behind the ship). The economy in space should begin to build with the maintenance of near-Earth commercial spacecraft. Then move on to the beginning of large-scale industrialization of space — not by transferring into the space industrial capacities from the Earth, but by building them from scratch, using new technologies worked out at the stage of servicing the near-Earth satellite constellation, so the process will be more efficient and economical in terms of costs. Developing according to this principle, the process of space industrialization will not spend state budgets, but from the first steps will begin to fill the economy with money. And the profit they bring will continuously grow as the space industrial system grows, until it becomes a leading industry in the economy of the Earth.
As you know, manned flights to Mars and the creation of a permanent base on this planet are technically possible, but flights to Mars are expensive, and adopted Martian projects do not fit into these amounts. At the same time, the direction of the practical resource mastering of asteroids is beginning to emerge. Asteroids have a wide variety of mineral resources in readily available form. However, investors are particularly attracted to the abundant and rich asteroid deposits of precious metals and rare earths. These substances are a valuable raw material in the manufacture of electronics and many high-tech industries. They are in demand, and the demand for them will constantly grow. The mastering of asteroid resources is one of the main large-scale areas of practical space exploration. For a promising asteroid extraction industry, a support base will be needed where transport ships can be based and maintained, equipment for the extraction and crushing of soil can be manufactured, and expensive high-tech equipment delivered from Earth can be repaired and serviced. One of the best places to place the main base is the orbit of Mars, its satellites, Phobos and Deimos. The Martian orbit is located between the asteroids and the Earth, it is close to the asteroid belt, but at the same time, Mars slowly flies around the asteroid belt. This makes it a good place both for exploration of asteroid deposits and subsequent development of the asteroid belt by mining bases, and for intermediate processing, enriching asteroid resources before they are sent to Earth. The Martian base for personnel serving the asteroid industrial system will serve as a kind of relaxation area between the rotational shifts to the Martian orbit and the remote work site for controlling space ships, technological lines and robots. In contrast to the projects of scientific inhabited bases on Mars in the concept of “Martian village”, the Martian base and the presence of people on it are economically justified. Unlike abstract scientific programs for the exploration of Mars, the beginning of the colonization of this planet through the base of an asteroid group in its orbit is an economically feasible approach that has confident chances for implementation in the near future. Large-scale industrial colonization of outer space will be based on new-cycle technologies; it will have little cost and speed. Countless production modules and robots will duplicate each other; build a heavy industry and infrastructure exponentially, causing a rapid and unrestrained growth of extraterrestrial industrial capacities. The rapid growth of the space industry will lead to the fact that it will relatively quickly, in one or several decades, exceed the industrial and economic potential of the Earth, after which its growth will continue at an even faster pace. Because of what, world civilization, upon entering the space age, will enter a state of constant and rapid development. I assure you, this is not a fantasy and very real things.
Studying this interesting question, I came across forecasts of the space industrialization by PhD in Physics and Mathematics Mr. Leskov (magazine ’Science and Life’ 1985 №6). I can say that later many sources refer to these forecasts as well. Even after 30 years, many hypotheses and dates no longer look like a fairy tale, but reality. Well, if we take into account the processes of accelerating human technological progress, it is quite realistic that these dates will become a reality much earlier than the previously announced dates. So let’s see:
1. Pilot production in space of improved materials — 1985–1990
2. Spacecraft and power plants of a new generation. Widespread space information systems. Industrial production of materials — 1990–2000
3. Global Bank of Scientific and Technical Information. Cosmic lines of energy transmission over long distances. Earth lighting with orbital reflectors — 2010
4. Space solar power plants to power the Earth — 2050
5. Unified Information and Energy Industrial Space System — 2120
6. Industrial exploration of the moon — 2180
7. Space eco-industry. Recovery of natural resources. Global weather management — 2300
8. Large-scale artificial structures in space. Energy consumption at the level of 1023–1024 J /year — 2400
9. Using the raw materials of other planets, transporting them to convenient orbits — 2500
10. Colonization of Venus and Mars — 2700
11. Energy systems based on new physical principles — 2800
12. The use of new fundamental discoveries in physics — 3000
The transition to the space era will bring the most powerful economic, technological and civilizational rise of humankind in the entire previous history. The future space expansion in many ways will be similar to the marine expansion of Europe, which began about five hundred years ago and caused the rise of the economy in Europe, the development of technology and science, which ultimately raised humanity to the modern level from the medieval. With the difference that the space colonization is not subject to new lands, together with their population, but asteroids and uninhabited planets. And unlike the civilizational leap of the past, which lasted a century, the rapid progress of modern technologies together with the power of modern industry and economy will make the rise of human civilization to a new level much faster, rather exponential. Using rational approaches to the development of the space industry, the first significant results from the colonization of space will become available in the next few decades, during the life of the current generation of people.
“If the cosmos has an unlimited supply of time, this does not just mean that anything can happen. It means that everything will ever happen.” -Erlend Loe
Sergey Golubev (Сергей Голубев)
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