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January 26, 2013

The Biggest Economic Bootstrap Ever

Quartz looked at the value of 10 meter asteroids of pure metal

Nextbigfuture argues that have to rewrite the economics of space as we go. Build things so that which follows is cheaper. Food, water, fuel, accommodations, etc... It should all be ready and waiting. We have spent about $3 trillion (in todays dollars on space, (50 years of NASA and Defense space budgets). Yet we do not have the interstate highway system for space after all of that money because we did not try to build things or put things up there to make what followed cheaper. Everything was one off. It is not just the economics of one asteroid. It is about leveraging for hundreds and tens of thousands of asteroids. A proper plan for $3 trillion of space development would have been to make fuel depots in low earth orbit and higher orbits and on the moon and to develop power generation and material processing systems. There should be oxygen, water, fuel, food and other materials available so that space missions that follow can be cheap and light weight. There should be solar system wide positioning system and communications network. Tether (skyhook) systems can be used to reduce the speed and cost needed to get to orbit. By halving the speed to get to orbit (intercept with a skyhook and get boosted to orbit instead of just going to orbit) you would lower fuel requirements by four times.

Internet companies and venture capitalists talk about scaling a business model. Space industrialization is about truly scaling. The biggest economic bootstrap ever. A smaller comparison is the investment to develop the missions and colonies in North and South America in the 1600s and 1700s.

Pure 10 meter Platinum Asteroid would be worth $670 billion
The density of platinum is 21.45 grams per cubic centimeter. If we assume that an entire spherical asteroid with a 10 meter diameter (about 523 cubic meters, 524 million cubic centimeters. 28.4 grams per ounce.) is made of platinum, and that one of these asteroid miners could harvest the whole thing. 396 million ounces. $1694 per ounce. At current market rates, that comes out to $670 billion.


10% Ten meter Nickel Asteroids are worth $8.1 million
Although asteroids of pure metal exist, they’re most likely to be mixes of roughly 90% iron and 10% nickel. A tenth of our asteroid (52.3 cu m, or 466,000 kg) made of nickel would be worth about $8.1 million at last month’s market rates. The iron—well, iron ore is so cheap that it hardly adds anything.

Earth Imaging and Space imaging Data and Space Telescopes are multi-billion dollar markets

As we have discussed before, there is billions in revenue in selling space telescopes that can be made one hundred times cheaper and there is billions in proven revenue in selling earth imaging data.



So long as the cost to get to Geosync or other orbits is $10,000 per pound then water is more useful than platinum in space and supereasy to mine

Planetary Resources has said that the initial space resource development will focus on water-rich asteroids. Water is the essence of life and exists in plentiful supply on asteroids. Access to water and other life-supporting volatiles in space provides hydration, breathable air, radiation shielding and even manufacturing capabilities. Water’s elements, hydrogen and oxygen, can also be used to form rocket fuel.

It is easy to get water. A small mining (even cubesats) spacecraft can have a large bag (relative to the size of the spaceship) and a simple heating element to get ice from an asteroid.

A single water-rich 500-meter-wide asteroid contains 80 times more water than the largest supertanker could carry and could provide, if the water were converted to rocket propellant, more than 200 times the rocket fuel required to launch all the rockets ever launched in human history.

Use the Water and Material to Build Industrialized Space

Nextbigfuture had looked at setting up a lunar industrial village.

Then leverage the industrial capacity to build a space shipyard. It would produce gigantic solar sail from a loom the size of a city (but only weighing a few thousand tons)

The value of North and South America was not the fur pelts and fish that were sent back in the early days. It was about getting an economical toe hold to develop the continents. Now they are about half of the world economy.

Space already has tens of billions of dollars in value from communication and other satellites. Information and communication have proven value. More of that can be produced by Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries.

Make multi-billions from imaging, communication, satellite servicing, space telescope sales, fuel production and water supplies. Scale that up to tens of billions and industrialize space. Use space resources to develop space capability. Create useful capital in space. You can leverage a lot of automation and 3d printing at first to lighten the investment needed. You do not stop at Jamestown (the first English settlement). Profitably get to the bigger payoffs. Bring the costs and risks of space colonization down. Space has to get beyond the first few custom crafted rockets.

We need gas stations all over space. Everything must be factory mass produced, cheap, reusable. I do not move everything in my house when I go on a trip cross country.

We have to rewrite the economics as we go. Build things so that which follows is cheaper. Food, water, fuel, accommodations, etc... It should all be ready and waiting.

We have spent about $3 trillion (in todays dollars on space, (50 years of NASA and Defense space budgets).

We do not have the interstate highway system for space after all of that money because we did not try to build things or put things up there to make what followed cheaper. Everything was one off.

It is not just the economics of one asteroid. It is about leveraging for hundreds and tens of thousands of asteroids.

What is the most economical way to make space cement ?
What is the best way to process material in different space environments ?
We can build bigger and lighter. We can make massive reflecting surfaces to produce space furnaces.

If a man brings a capsule and a flag to the moon then we have a monument.
If man can build whatever we want on the moon, Mars and from asteroids then we have a colonized solar system. That will be worth millions of times the GDP of the earth.

Internet companies and venture capitalists talk about scaling a business model.

Space industrialization is about truly scaling. The biggest economic bootstrap ever.


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