Category Archives: Update

Space Studies Institute Update Winter 2011

SSI held the 14th Conference on Space Manufacturing and Space Settlement at the NASA Ames Research Center on October 29-31, 2010. This marked a successful return of our influential meeting. Since the last conference, there has been huge progress in some technical areas and little in others. In particular, there has been excellent progress in automated and teleoperated mining technology, great progress in developing highly reusable rocket engines, and much improved knowledge of the distribution of extraterrestrial resources. Except for the SSI work on closed environment life support systems completed a few years ago, there has been little progress in this critical technology for space settlement.

The panel discussion “Moon, Mars or Asteroids: Where Do We Go First For Resources?” was enlightening. The consensus was that the Moon would be the first body to be used for non-terrestrial resources. The advantage the Moon has over asteroids is logistical. Travel times to asteroids are long and mission opportunities are few, and the longer physical distance makes teleoperation of mining equipment impossible. A successful asteroid mining expedition would involve a human crew with a mission duration of years. Resupply would be difficult with current technology. The Moon, on the other hand, is only three days away and has multiple flight windows per month. Teleoperation with a lunar time delay is known to be possible, and spare parts or a human repair crew could be sent with comparative ease.
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Space Studies Institute Update July 2010

To Senior Associates and Members

The 14th Space Studies Institute Conference on Space Manufacturing and Space Settlement will be held at NASA Ames Conference Center on October 30 and 31, 2010.  Thirty five years ago, the Ames Research Center was the site of the first large technical study of space settlement.  We have made significant progress since then, but with the prospect of low cost space transportation in the near future, now is the time to reinvigorate research and collaboration on the critical path technologies needed for space industrialization and settlement.  This conference continues in the spirit of the SSI Princeton Conferences.

mass driver demoThe Space Manufacturing and Space Settlement Conferences have given SSI great value for its investment. This conference is the only one solely concerned with the science and engineering of humanity’s expansion into the solar system.  Its most important function is to bring together the engineers, entrepreneurs and researchers who do the real work.  New space companies and new institutions have formed from collaborations forged at earlier conferences.  We hope that this and future annual SSI conferences will be as fruitful.
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SSI Update December 2007

The fourteenth SSI Conference on Space Manufacturing will be held at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton on April 19 and 20, 2008. The session chairs are responsible for the papers in their sessions. The sessions and chairs are:

Conference Chair: Prof. John S. Lewis

Space Manufacturing, Chair: Prof. Niklas Jarvstrat

Space Resources, Chair: Prof. John S. Lewis

Robotics, Chair: Prof. William “Red” Whittaker

Space Solar Power, Chair: Col. Michael “Coyote” Smith

Space Transportation, Chair: Prof. George Dyson

Closed Environment Life Support Systems, Chair: Dr. Lee Valentine

Economics, Chair: Dr. Klaus Heiss

Special Evening Session: Space Solar Power; the Space Solar Alliance for Future Energy

Poster session: Dr. Roger O’Neill

Recently the National Security Space Office of the Department of Defense, NSSO, under the leadership of General James Armor, began a serious study of Satellite Solar Power. The NSSO began the effort because the armed forces need to supply forward bases with electrical power and satellite solar power appeared likely to be economically competitive with the present cost of electricity at bases in Iraq. The NSSO is very interested in long term energy security for the United States and its allies. It would like to develop satellite solar power to prevent future wars over energy resources. No entity in the federal government has been charged with power satellite development and, excepting the NSSO, none has made any effort to promote it. The NSSO office would like to transfer responsibility for powersat development and construction to the private sector as soon as possible. They see the possibility that critical technologies will be classified secret and so become unusable for civilian purposes.
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Winter 2005

Space Studies Institute
Update, The Newsletter of The High Frontier

The maiden flight of Falcon 1, the first privately produced semi-reusable orbital launch vehicle, has been delayed several times by minor problems. Nonetheless, SpaceX is proceeding with development of its fully reusable launcher, Falcon 9, and still expects its launch price per pound to low Earth orbit to be below $500 by the end of the decade. This is good news since that price, about one-fourth of the cheapest launch price available today, is the threshold at which space launch demand becomes elastic.

The Commercial Space Transportation Study, released in 1994, projected that market demand would triple at that price. At a mature transportation price of from $30 to $50 per pound, the space transportation market was projected to be 10,000 launches per year. You can find the complete CSTS at www.hq.nasa.gov/webaccess/CommSpaceTrans. Also worth reading is a related study done in 2001 by Andrews Space and Technology that can be found at SpaceFuture.com.

I have just returned from Mojave where I found XCOR to be sitting on a mother lode of robust and reliable, inexpensive space transportation technology. There are other competent competitors in this market and we can be hopeful that a radical decrease in space launch costs is in view. This creates both challenges and opportunities for the Space Studies Institute. The challenge is that if the Institute is to be relevant to further space development, we must bring our several research projects through to working hardware. And we must do so in a timely way, so that when launch costs are low enough, we will have the technology available to make the earliest use of nonterrestrial resources. The opportunity is that there will be possibilities for SSI to commercialize some of its technologies.
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