SSI Newsletters: 1981 Q3

Space Studies Institute Newsletter September 1981

Space Studies Institute
195 Nassau Street
PO Box 82
Princeton, NJ 08540
[[librarian note:  This address is here, as it was in the original printed newsletter, for historical reasons.  It is no longer the physical address of SSI. For contributions, please see this page]]

Vol VII  Issue 3
September 1981



One of the attractive things about the series of biennial Princeton University/AIAA/SSI Conferences on Space Manufacturing is that so many of the participants are young. They’ll be in mid-career around the year 2,000 when their ideas–those that survive–are working in hardware form as a part of industry in space. The flip side is that one sees very few of the weighty, power-laden captains of industry and gov­ernment at these conferences. Industry sees no big bucks in space industry as yet, and government has no continuing program aimed toward the development of the energy and material resources of space for human benefit. The work is being maintained by enthusiasts, many of them working unpaid, who feel that what they are doing is of far greater potential benefit to the nation and to the world than many of the big-spending civil and military aerospace programs. That situation gives the conferences a refreshingly frank, unpontifical flavor. They’re fun to attend.

And what about their significance? The elder statesman of the space-manufacturing movement share with their juniors the conviction that the conferences are enormously important. Prof. James Arnold of USCD, at the banquet of the May 1981 Space Manufacturing Conference, said, “Humanity is taking its final exam now, on Survival.” He pointed out that the Conference participants shared two characteristics in common with those who successfully changed history in the face of giant odds in the past: they were persistent and they were naïve. “Neither is enough, but both are necessary.”

Dr. Henry Kolm of M.I.T., in one of the summary talks, said flat-out that, “The survival of life depends on the success of this movement.” Dr. Jerry Gray of AIAA expressed the consensus of the Conference, that the push into space with people, assisted by the rapidly advancing technology of automation, is coming at just the right time.

The May 1981 Conference, whose Proceedings will be published by the AIAA, was held at the traditional site of these Conferences, the very agreeable Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University. This year’s was the fifth in the biennial series, Gerard O’Neill of Princeton Univ. chaired the Organizing Committee and, following a tradition, gave a brief summing up of the progress in the past two years and of the Conference itself in the closing remarks. He was impressed by several new developments: the generally high quality of papers presented not only in the hard sciences and engineering but in the social sciences as well; the shift of responsibility for research support from the government to a citizen-supported nonprofit foundation, the Space Studies Institute; and the growing emphasis, evident in many of the Conference papers, on entrepreneurial, Silicon-Valley-like companies, bent on profiting from space and wholly unimpressed with government leadership.

In the first day’s session on “International and Legal Considerations”, chaired by Irwin Pikus of the National Science Foundation, authors such as N. Jasentuliyana of the United Nations, Eileen Galloway of the State Department and Lawyer Stephen Gorove concentrated on the pragmatic history of space law and the push-and-shove politics of legal dealings between the industrialized nations and the Third World countries. For contrast, the next session was on Manufacturing, chaired by Machine Intelligence Corporation’s founder, Dr. Charles Rosen. Many of its papers had come out of studies in 1979-80 sponsored by NASA or by SSI. The emphasis was on the concepts of partially self-replicating factory systems, automation and teleoperation. R. A. Freitas noted that MITI in Japan now has a seven-year, $57 million program going aimed at developing the world’s first totally self-­replicating factory. A. Goldberg outlined a computer model to explore the econom­ics of industrial systems that can manufacture some of their own components out of lunar materials, and reduce transport costs by the old and still viable idea of lunar-derived propellant oxygen. A. Globus showed the results of a challenging, electronic-gamelike experiment simulating the effects of the errors of teleoperation of the 3-second round-trip time-lag for signals to the Moon.

The “Electromagnetic Accelerators” session began with papers on the by­ now orthodox concept of lunar catapults. W. R. Snow of Princeton reported that his Mass-Driver II model had successfully demonstrated high-power controlled recharge of a capacitor-bank resonant with accelerating drive coils. Its measured accelerations were also in close agreement with a computer simulation written by Dr. R. S. Dunbar, and its electronic system controlled all the necessary high-current impulses by signals derived from the interruption of light beams during passage of the accelerated “bucket.” Mass-Driver II is now being retired in favor of Mass ­Driver III, based on a new concept described in a paper by O’Neill. The new design is far simpler than the old, eliminates the apparatus associated with magnetic flight, and provides focusing forces for the moving bucket as the off­-axis components of the ordinary axial acceleration forces. The new design gives tight coupling, high efficiency and high acceleration (typically 2,000 gravities for a bucket loaded with lunar material), and does so within the limitations of present-day commercially available solid-state current switches. A full-scale catapult based on the Mass-Driver III concept would need to be only 250 meters long to accelerate its payloads to lunar escape speed and decelerate its carrier buckets to rest again. As a further simplification, the acceleration times for the new-concept mass-drivers are so short (a small fraction of a second) that the bucket coils need not be super­conducting; and can be ordinary aluminum, deriving their power without physical contact by rectifying some of the ripple flux from successive drive-coil impulses.

Dr. H. H. Kolm, chairman of the session, introduced two speakers from his own M.I.T. group. Peter Mongeau showed full-scale-model results for a compact, high-acceleration (mega-gravity) induction accelerator intended for use as a reaction engine. If you’re willing to supply aluminum to be vaporized as the secondary coil and reaction mass, the new compact accelerator could do a good job for interorbital transport. Dr. Kolm’s group, in another paper, made a case for an electromagnetic accelerator to be built on a mountainside somewhere near the high ­current Pacific Intertie power transmission line. The accelerator would tap into the Intertie for periods of a few seconds at off-peak hours, and in those seconds would accelerate a cargo-carrying rocket to a speed high enough that its fuel-to-payload ratio for orbital insertion would be only four or five, instead of 30 to 70. Dani Eder, a student from New York, in an independent paper came to a somewhat similar conclusion: that an accelerator located on the Earth would do best if used as the substitute for a rocket’s first stage. The advantages come from working on the exponent in the classical rocket equation.

In the “Novel Concepts” session, chaired by G. C. Hudson, Hudson described the economy-version Percheron rocket, developed and already test-fired by his own company. Percheron is a fascinatinq marriage of V-2 era low-tech, low-pressure LOX-kerosene rocketry with ultralight modern control electronics. It’s being financed wholly privately, and is intended for the industrial market: companies that want to launch their own Earth ­resources satellites without having to share the results with their competitors. Among a number of creative, innovative papers, E. C. Hannah’s stood out as a surprisingly detailed, scientifically well-based outline of what must have seemed before his talk the wildest idea of all: using the gravitational field of the Sun to bend light into a focus. He didn’t advertise it as a notion that could become reality in the next century.

In the “Materials Resources” session W. Agosto made a strong case for the use of powdered metallurgy with lunar iron for the first machinery built from lunar materials. The iron is there, already separated, in the smaller soil particles, and can be removed with magnets — no chemistry needed. D. Criswell of CalSpace confirmed his conclusions in a companion paper.

A Rockwell/CalSpace consortium, now carrying out research into lunar soils chemical separation under a $100,000 grant from SSI, reported that of 33 chemical reactions needed for the extraction of pure metals, silicon and oxygen from lunar materials, all but seven are well understood as parts of commercial systems now in use. They’re working on the seven.

Many of the Conference participants see space colonies as the natural end­point of space manufacturing research, so there was special interest in the talk by NASA’s Dr. J. Sharp, on the evidence from Soviet long-duration missions on whether gravity (or its simulation by rotation) is necessary for long-term health. Sharp’s report tended to bear out what the space colony aficionados have been saying all along: that it makes sense to provide the simulated gravity and stop having to worry about the physiology. The Soviets found that calcium loss in zero­ gravity continued without leveling off for the full duration of their longest (six-month) flight. The loss occurs even from the teeth, whose normal use doesn’t have anything to do with gravitational loads. Apparently new formation of bone just quits after 11 days or so of orbital flight. As for plant life, the Soviets tried growing a variety of plants -­ onions, dill, parsley, garlic and others­ and found that in zero-gravity many of them didn’t grow properly or refused to bear seeds.

Among the social-science papers, J. V. Brady of Johns Hopkins reported on a fascinating, closely controlled study of the behavior of groups of two and three people in confined environments. He’s run 50 “missions”, each for a week or more. To a startling degree, a mission can be made or broken by simple changes in the ground rules set by “Mission Control.” It’s bad news to introduce a third party after two others have had a couple of days to get used to each other. It’s disaster to use punitive action (docking wages) as an inducement to work, but positive reinforcement gets all three working together even though their abilities may be very different. Groups of three women get along together far better than groups of three men. And as far as for mixed groups — “Well ,” said Brady, “that’s explosive! We’re still analyzing.”

The anthropologist Dr. Ben Finney, from Hawaii (leader of the 1976 double-canoe voyage of 3,000 miles navigated exclusively by the traditional Polynesian wind-wave­water-stars methods) pointed out that the explosion of Polynesian migration occurred much faster than population pressures dictated, and was apparently carried out largely for the pure joy of voyaging. As many of the Conference participants saw space colonies as a natural development coming out of space manufacturing, Finney’s next point struck home even harder: warfare, he said, tended to break out in Polynesia when the size of a community exceeded the limits for face-to-face contact, that is, a few thousand people. But it was not correlated with population density. Fortunately, it’s turning out that there’s a “diseconomy of scale” in building space colonies; the emerging picture is that they’ll be cheaper per unit of land area if they’re of moderate size, suitable at most for a few thousand people. They’ll be self-sufficient and dispersed, but communicating freely; just the set of characteristics that Finney’s evidence suggests will minimize warfare. Other an­thropologists present endorsed his conclusions.

As for the politics of our own time, R. D. McWilliams reported that anti-space public attitudes result from wrong impressions about cost.  According to his polling results, when anti-space voters are informed that NASA’s budget is NOT equal to HEW’s (now known as the Dept. of Health and Human Services), but in fact less than a twentieth as large, their attitudes change from negative to positive. And he noted a widening of the “space-positive” demographics. The traditional space supporters are still there — white, male, 22 to 35, well­ educated, earning a lot — but they’re being joined in their space-positivism by a growing number of men and women from the middle socio­economic class.

The logistics of this year’s Conference were aided greatly by financial contributions from two Associate Sponsors, OMNI
Magazine and the National Space Institute. With that help, the other financial sponsors, Princeton University and the Space Studies Institute, weren’t forced into the red. Post-Conference activities by supportive citizen-groups included the Annual Meeting of the L-5 Society, held at the Nassau Inn, and a party hosted by SSI in its new quarters at 195 Nassau Street for its Senior Associates. That group, now several hundred in number, pledges substantial support to SSI over a five-year period, and is the backbone of SSI’s funding of hard-science research like the Rockwell/CalSpace grant and the construction of Mass-Driver III at Princeton.

Overall, the Conference participants expressed a strong feeling that this year’s Conference had been the best one yet. In my opinion, aerospace corporations could gain a lot by sending representatives to future conferences in this series.  See you in ’83!

Gerard K. O’Neill
President, SSI

* * * * *


LOCAL CHAPTERS: The SSI Local Chapter program is shaping up. An organization wishing to be known as a “Local Chapter of SSI” will get text and graphic materials at cost from the Institute, and will have the right to include in its local membership drives the statement that it is directly supporting SSI research.

Any organization desiring this status is subject to approval first by SSI, and must supply $10 subscription (tax-exempt) for each of its members and their names and addresses. Subscriptions must be paid annually. Some of you have written or called asking for lists of Subscribers from your area to form Local Chapters. Space Studies Institute policy is that Subscriber lists are confidential, and may not be sent out. However, if you wish to serve as a contact person, you may send your name and address (and phone number, if you’d like calls). We will then send postcards to all Senior Associates and Subscribers in your area, so that they can get in touch with you.

For approval of your group, please send the following to SSI’s Princeton office:

-copy of the group’s constitution or charter

-sample copies of publications (if any)

-a paragraph discussion of the future plans of the organization, and frequency of meetings (annually, monthly, etc.)

These will enable us to issue a letter of authorization for your new Local Chapter.



Dr. O’Neill ‘s lecture schedule includes the following dates. (*) signifies a closed lecture, not open to the public:

October 26th – American Council of Insur­ance Executives.* Williamsburg, Virginia.

November 4th – University of California, Berkeley, California.

November 9th – Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio.

November 10th-11th – Central College, Pella, Iowa.

November 12th – Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana.

November 17th – University of California, Irvine, California.

November 30th – Pennsylvania State Univer­sity -Capital Campus, Middletown, PA.

December 7th – Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.* Dallas, Texas.

December 10th – Continental Telephone Company.*  Marco  Island, Florida.



James Vedda,  a Senior Associate  from Ohio,  has a suggestion for people thinking of becoming Senior Associates. In some states, money can be placed in a Certificate of Deposit and the interest sent to whomever the holder of the Certificate designates, either annually or quarterly. No reminder notices would be needed, since the contribution would be made automatically. This does not hold true in all states, how­ever, so check with your bank.



A Thank you! to the Subscri­bers and Senior Associates who have re­cently contacted us, offering their special talents. We appreciate volunteers and contacts, and if you are willing to help in any capacity, please send us a note.



In an effort to see how SSI can better inform our supporters, a polling form will be sent to a selected group of Subscribers. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to answer the questions, and return the ballot promptly.



Dr. O’Neill plans to attend the second launch of the Space Shuttle in mid-October, at the invitation of Dr. James M. Beggs, NASA administrator.



SSI gets many requests for somewhere to write for slides of space colonies, the Voyager mission to Saturn, and Shuttle. Here are some places to inquire:

Space colonies: set of 16 color slides of colonies and manufacturing: SSI, P. 0. Box 82, Princeton, NJ, 08540. Send $15.00 by check or money order for the set.

NASA pictures of the various space missions, catalogue of information: Les Gaver, Audio Visual Code LF0-10, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. 20546
Shuttle information: NASA. Public Affairs Office, Code PA-EPS, Kennedy Space Center, FL, 32899. There are NASA centers all over the country. Check the one nearest you, also.



I wish to support the research and education programs of SSI for one year as a:

[ ] Subscriber ($10)
[ ] Donor ($100)
[ ] Contributor ($25)
[ ] Sponsor ($200-$500)
[ ] This is a renewal

[ ] Please send me information about the Senior Associates Program

City, State, Zip

(Canadian Subscribers kindly remit in U.S. funds via postal money order/bank draft)

–All Donations are Tax Deductible -­

SSI, P.O. Box 82, Princeton, NJ 08540
[[librarian note:  This address is here, as it was in the original printed newsletter, for historical reasons.  It is no longer the physical address of SSI. For contributions, please see this page]]

©space studies institute

Next: 1981 Q4

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Technology for Human Space Settlement