Re^3: "Practices and Principles" to deathby dragonchild (Archbishop)
|on Feb 29, 2008 at 18:37 UTC||Need Help??|
(Note: you're entering into an area that I have a lot of interest in and have thought about for years, so please be prepared to back yourself up.)
You're presenting very real issues. Sounds like there's a number of excellent industries waiting to spring up. For example, garbage-collecting dead satellites and other debris. No, I have no idea how this would be done. Sounds like the perfect use for a field of some sort on a drone sweeping around the earth in an orbit that traverses the entire spherical shell of a given height. If all known satellites are in a database somewhere (another business opportunity similar to credit bureaus), there isn't a problem. If finding these satellites is a problem, that's another business opportunity. In other words, the cost of managing of all these items can easily be handled by entrepreneurs in the free market.
Now for lift costs. This is an interesting problem because it makes a lot of assumptions that may not be valid for more than a few years. So, let's talk about this.
Lets look first at what cannot be changed - the amount of energy it takes to raise the potential energy of a certain mass such that it is in LEO. That energy needs to be applied to the mass in such a way that it raises the potential energy without damaging the mass. The way that has been done thus far has been to use rockets which are extremely inefficient. And, they're more inefficient the closer to the ground you are. If we could only start our rocket halfway up, we would cut our energy needs by 75% (Inverse Square Law). There are easily a dozen solutions here, but they all have a rather high capital cost. Amortizing that cost is the key.
Now, why do we have to build satellites on Earth? Why can't we build them in orbit? If we could do so, we wouldn't have to make them so sturdy (to survive liftoff), which means they would require significantly less material. Since you'd have a foundry in orbit, you probably have power generation in orbit. Why not share that power generation capacity through beaming (a proven, if unused, technology)? Now, all you need is the actual purpose of the satellite. A lot easier to work with.
Furthermore, why do we have to have people in orbit to build these satellites? The cost of the ISS would drop by about 90% if it didn't need people on it. I'm not advocating a human-free space exploration program. In fact, I'm not advocating a space exploration program at all. I'm coming from the perspective of a space occupation program.
Basically, you find that the marginal cost of a given product (such as a satellite) drops dramatically if the proper infrastructure is in place. Very much like Perl when it comes to programming. I know you've discussed how productive you are in Perl vs. other languages in the past. That's due to the infrastructure you have. That infrastructure cost over 1_000_000 manyears (counting CPAN), but has been amortized into saving that many man-years every year. That's all that's needed in space, too.
My criteria for good software: