Economic Realities of Cheap Orbital Access

I’ve been quiet here lately due to work, preparation for the yearly interactive fiction competition, and Kingdom Hearts. Since I’m not writing anything here, the least I can do is offer an interesting link, even if by “interesting” I mean “something that only Geof and I are likely to care about”. When Physics, Economics, and Reality Collide is a detailed look at what it would take to get cheap orbital access, “cheap” here being defined as $1000 per pound launched into low-Earth orbit.

(Link courtesy of the inestimable James Nicoll)



  1. on September 29, 2007 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ve started Kingdom Hearts twice and have not gone very far. With what you’ve played so far, do you think it worth finishing? Work’s been slamming me as well and most of the time I’ve been staring at the TV in the evening.

  2. kat
    on September 29, 2007 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Hey, don’t forget that I work on space stuff, too!

  3. Sean
    on September 29, 2007 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    I played through the first one and really enjoyed, although I want to strangle the developer who did the underwater one. It is worth getting through to the end.

    Still need to pick up the second one sometime (heads over to Amazon and the wish list….)

  4. on September 29, 2007 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Is it sad that, about 10% through, I got really angry that they even considered SSTO? SSTO and RLVs just aren’t practical in today’s engineering environment, and I’m not sure that an SSTO is ever practical given the mass fraction involved.

    Also, I don’t know that a “many small rockets” approach works at all. It certainly doesn’t for any of the scenarios I see on a daily basis. For an example: getting an ISS battery to orbit? 500 pounds a battery or so. We’re really going to put one battery in a rocket and call that a day? $500,000 for a battery? Yeah, the public’s really gonna love that.

    That said, I don’t know what the breakthrough is. Chemical propulsion seems to have been optimized at this point.

    [I like reading economics, and I obviously like rockets, but I quit after the first page.]

  5. on September 29, 2007 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Not everyone has your religious objections to SSTO, and to not discuss it would be to leave a gaping hole in their analysis that SSTO proponents would then beat on. So, yes, I would put that in the “sad” column.

  6. on September 29, 2007 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Limax: I’d say it’s entirely dependent on how much you enjoy Final Fantasy-style console RPGs.

  7. on September 29, 2007 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    It’s not a religious objection. It’s simple mathematics!

  8. on October 1, 2007 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Interesting read so far. Of course, I lack the math to understand the principles, but I can get the basics of the report.

    I’m still on page one, but this so far is super interesting to me, as I’ve been sort of off and on following the private sector space race, and am very interested in seeing what will happen.