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.
Continue reading Winter 2005