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Is space exploration / commercialization speeding up? It is now that almost every day we hear some new awesome space mission.



There are simply more players on the field now. With ESA, JAXA, CNSA, among others, and the emerging private sector we can diversify into many exciting space projects instead of going for a single (no matter how amazing) moonshot.


It is!

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Thanks, I signed up! As RSS slowly leaks away these curated email lists that have sprung up are providing a valuable service.

As long as it’s an easy unsubscribe I’m happy to receive them.



In the case of commercialization, should we worried about a failure-to-launch scenario? We supposedly only have enough fuel to get a volume of about Mount Everest into space. Given the economics of climate change being so fucked up and a tragedy of the commons, could we doom our species to spending the rest of eternity on this decaying rock if we allow market forces to shit away all the fuel required to make us interplanetary?


As others have mentioned, the propellant for three major upcoming rockets (Blue Origin's New Glenn, ULA's Vulcan, and SpaceX's Starship/Super Heavy) is methane (plus liquid oxygen).

Currently that methane is coming from natural gas, and represents a tiny, tiny fraction of our current natural gas use. If we didn't want to use natural gas, methane can be made from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This is critical to SpaceX's Mars plan, as they're planning on making their propellant for the return trip once they get there. If you can produce it on Mars, you can definitely produce it on Earth.


I’m not convinced we do have a limited earth fuel budget as you say. There’s lots of options for rocket fuel and many of them are highly abundant or can be synthesised.

For example, hydrogen and oxygen are the 1st and 3rd most abundant elements in the universe, so liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel is always going to be an option


Thanks!


We have lots and lots and lots of fuel, in part because rocket fuels are varied. Many of them can also be synthesized through the use of water, atmospheric gasses, and power.

For example, Blue Origin and SpaceX are developing launchers that run on methane - fantastically plentiful on Earth in the form of natural gas. Delta IV runs on hydrogen, which can be synthesized through gasification or electrolysis. Falcon 9 and Atlas V burn kerosene, also very common.

The real issue is whether, at high launch rates, this will become a meaningful contributor to climate change; hopefully through use of space-based resources we can reduce the up-mass requirements enough to avoid that problem.


ULA's replacement for the Delta IV and Atlas V, "Vulcan" uses the same BE-4 engine as Blue Origin's New Glenn, so it will be methalox as well.

It's a slightly more complicated platform (using hydrolox for the upper stage, and optional strap-on solids for the booster), but the bulk of the propellant is methalox.


Late to the party but... we don't need fossil fuels to launch rockets.

Aside from synthetic fuels, you can launch rockets on methane. Can't make methane? (You are a robot society by now, because it would mean there is no biosphere anymore). Still fine! We can convert our oceans into fuel (hydrogen + oxygen), given energy input. Energy can come from renewables, nuclear, etc.

No, we are not going to run out of fuel for as long as we have water.


Considering SpaceX's Raptor engine currently in development is going to use methane as a fuel source (produced by cow farts and rotting garbage among other things), I don't think this particular issue is something to place at the top of your worries about global warming.

I'd be more worried about conflicts breaking out due to mass migration due to parts of the world becoming harder and harder to eek out an exsistance in.


Your statement implies that things will be better when/if we find another decaying rock to spend the rest of eternity on. How so?


Depending on what GP meant by "decaying", I can see two answers.

If they meant decaying in the "climate change is destroying the world" sense, then presumably the idea is that we've learned our lesson and won't destroy the next rock the way we have this one. Debatable, but at least the next rock is unlikely to have dead dinosaurs for use to dig up and burn.

If they meant decaying as in "the sun is eventually going to swallow us up", the presumably we will spread humanity across a bunch of decaying rocks, and continually migrate for the most decayed to newly formed rocks.


When getting stuff into space it's mass that matters, not volume. Even if you mean mass, that's equivalent to the mass of 39 years worth of all the world's cement production combined. Which is a fair bit. Plus rocket fuels are manufacturable from renewable resources.


Partly for that reason (but mainly for the cost) the future of space access isn’t rockets, it’s things like orbital rings, launch loops, active support towers, momentum exchange tethers, etc.

We don’t have them yet because they are expensive investments. It’s like flying NYC-SFO because building a 747 is cheaper than building the I-80 freeway — It seems like a no-brainer now we have Silicon Valley in one and Wall Street in the other, but imagine it from the point of view of Teddy Roosevelt rather than Franklin Roosevelt


There has never been a single instance of when a resource became actually depleted with no substitute. None in all of history. It's however a potent scare story used by communists to advocate communism which always has failed to produce most things in sufficient quantities.


Trees (lumber) on Easter Island




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