21 July 1998
- General (Good)
Space Future Celebrates Successful First Year
Trends Confirm Direction
by Patrick Collins
As Space Future turns one year old today, the two goals of space tourism and space power which are key to paying for human expansion into space, are looking better than ever before. Both topics are substantially more widely accepted today than even one year ago, though there's still a long way to go.

Space Tourism

Space tourism is now regularly discussed in articles both in space-related media and in the general press. Sub-orbital passenger flights to 100 km and back are now being planned and offered a few years hence by a range of companies. Most importantly, makers of reusable launch vehicles have been able to get much further than ever before, including raising tens of $ millions so far - we wish them all well. Some of the milestones passed this year:
  • The X Prize" organization has raised more than half of the $10 million it's offering in prize money, and there's talk of a movie.
  • The World Tourism Organisation has said that it expects to see space tourism services within 20 years.
  • A number of global companies including Pepsi Japan, Hilton International and Virgin Atlantic have all publicised their intentions to be involved in space tourism.
  • For the first time in its history, NASA too has recognised that space tourism is realistic and economically desirable in its joint report with STA on the prospects for space tourism (see story below).
  • The FAA is studying licensing of reusable rockets, and how to adapt air traffic control systems to include low Earth orbit.

Although progress remains frustratingly slow, it is clearly becoming increasingly widely recognised that, far from being a far-out fantasy, space travel services for the general public are the most important commercial objective for the space industry. And indeed that only space tourism (until space power gets started, that is) has the potential to grow into a sufficiently large market to generate the commercial revenues, profits and investment that are needed to build the real "space age" - that is, when we all get to go too.

Space tourism can generate adequate commercial demand for the reusable rockets which are needed, and it can also create the in-orbit commercial demand for extra-terrestrial resources that will attract commercial investment into lunar mining and space industrialization. All of the technology required is essentially known. All that's lacking is an economic justification - and giving the people what they want will solve that!

Space Power

Not to be overlooked, space power also continues to make progress.
  • Congress has given NASA $5 million for SPS studies, and there is a movement to increase this to $25 million.
  • The international " SPS 2000" pilot plant study project continues, although the goal of giving it a modest budget (say a few $ million per year, or just 1/1000 of Japanese fast-breeder nuclear research) is still apparently too far out for Japan's bureaucrats to countenance.
  • France has given up nuclear fast breeder reactor work, leaving only Japan still pouring money into that hole (see story below).
However, since the single most important step for space power, as for space tourism, is a sharp reduction in the cost of getting to orbit, recent progress towards reusable rockets has made it a good year for the prospects for SPS too.

The future of Space Future

A lot of work has gone into Space Future as it is now, one year on, but there is plenty more yet to do. Here are some of the things we're planning or hoping for:
  • More expansive and comprehensive inter-cross-referenced archive. There are still a large number of interesting papers of which we'd like to receive electronic copies in order to make it truly comprehensive. If you have some, please send them!
  • Better facilities, including improved searching options and a new look for the Journal.
  • A dedicated server to make Space Future faster and more accessible.
  • We've been pleased to find teaching materials on the 'net which are using data from Space Future, but we look forward to preparing dedicated teaching materials for wider dissemination of ideas about humans' real Space Future.
  • A few more adventurous spirits like Tom Clancy and Walt Anderson (who were the first backers of Rotary Rocket), to put more serious resources behind promising makers of passenger carrying rockets such as Bristol Spaceplanes and others, so we can report on them.
  • And a few more links please, from other sites dedicated to opening up space!

72,000 hits is a respectable number for our first year, but space and space tourism has a much wider appeal than that - we'd like to see 10 times that for our second year. Space Future and like-minded groups are winning the argument, so now is the time to redouble our efforts and win the hearts and minds of the public at large - carpe diem!
Share |
Patrick Collins 21 July 1998
Please send comments, critiques and queries to feedback@spacefuture.com.
All material copyright Space Future Consulting except as noted.