People have dreamed about building cities on the Moon and Mars for years.
Some people even dream of making Mars into an earthlike planet – a true second home for mankind.
Others want to go asteroid mining so as to bring home the wealth of the solar system.
There are others who want to build cities in the stars, O’Neill style space colonies scattered throughout the solar system, to develop a truly space based civilization.
They are all worthy and wonderful dreams. Yet none of them will happen until a way is found to make space travel affordable to everyone. Affordable to the individual spaceflight is the foundation of all these dreams if any of them are ever to be made real.
Affordable to everyone spaceflight is not just about the big dreams, it is also about the personal dreams of every person who has the courage to dream. For some, that personal dream might be to spend a week or two in an orbiting hotel watching the Earth pass by underneath.
For others, it might be to get a job in one of the orbiting factories or research stations so as to become part of the new frontier.
Then there are those who dream of starting their own business in space such as a repair and refueling service for satellites that orbit the Earth or to build a farm module where they can make a living growing food for the people who live and work in space.
Other still might dream of getting a job in space so they can use their spare time to build a small spaceship that will allow them to homestead an asteroid.
The possibilities are endless. The only limitation is your imagination and how hard you are willing to work.
Whatever your dreams of space are, affordable to everyone spaceflight is what will make them possible. Without it, all these dreams, both large and small, will remain forever unattainable.
One of the key concepts discussed in the book “Opening the High Frontier” is the idea of combination launch systems. This is a concept that combines a launch vehicle with other launch assist systems in order to reduce the velocity the launch vehicle needs to achieve to reach orbit. One of those launch assist systems is called a non-rotating Skyhook.
This video shows how a non-rotating Skyhook works.
It starts with an Orion spacecraft on a suborbital flight path that will take it within reach of a crane located at the lower end of the Skyhook. Upon capture, the crane docks the Orion with the Lower Endpoint Station. The Midpoint Station on the Skyhook, which was positioned at the upper end of the Skyhook cable for the rendezvous, then starts moving down the cable to the Lower Endpoint Station. Once the Midpoint Station and Lower Endpoint Station come together and dock, the ion propulsion system on the Midpoint Station is activated in order to start raising the orbital altitude of the Skyhook. While this is going on, the crew and passengers of the Orion spacecraft will transfer to the Midpoint Station and the Orion spacecraft will be transferred to one of the docking ports at the upper end of the Midpoint Station. Next, the Midpoint Station undocks from the Lower Endpoint Station and starts moving up the cable to the Upper Endpoint Station. Upon arrivial, the passengers, crew, and Orion spacecraft are transferred to the Upper Endpoint Station, and the Midpoint Station starts back down the cable to the lower end. Once the Midpoint Station has arrivied at the lower end of the cable and the Skyhook is at the proper orbital position, the Orion spacecraft is released from the Upper Endpoint Station to a higher orbit.
The power for all these orbit changes comes from the ion propulsion system on the Skyhook. Since the ion propulsion system is much more fuel efficient than a chemical rocket motor, the amount of propellant that needs to be carried into orbit is greatly reduced. The reduced velocity required for flying to the lower end of the Skyhook also increases the payload fraction of the launch vehicle and allows for the use of a smaller reusable launch vehicle, all of which reduces the cost of getting to orbit.
The Skyhook shown in the video is called a Basic Skyhook. In the beginning, when combined with an air-launched reusable first stage launch vehicle, it has the potential of reducing the cost to orbit by 85%. Over time, as the Skyhook is made longer, the launch vehicles get better, and the flight rate increases, it has the potential of reducing the cost to orbit to $20,000 per person.
I strongly recommend watching the video full screen, with the sound turned up!