I recently came across a quote from Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace and Budget Suites of America which underlined the significance of space commerce in the coming decade.
“The third industrial revolution is on its way and it’s going to be huge… it will be comparable to the automobile industry, electronic industry and computer industry all thrown together”
Robert Bigelow, Bigelow Aerospace– Net worth $1.5 Billion (est. 2009)
So if a billionaire such as Bigelow is so confident to predict a momentous industrial age then what are the roadblocks from getting from here to there?
Space is currently is expensive. As discussed in the previous post all manned programs to date have been funded by large government. From Apollo to Shuttle, Soyuz to Shenzhou, all would have made a loss without the public sector. We can see this changing though. Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic are getting ready to go Sub-Orbital, while XCOR is proving you can do space on a budget with their tiny Lynx Spacecraft. This weeks update on the CIS-Lunar flyby (trip round the moon) by Space Adventures which will take to paying customers on an out of this world ride all the way to the moon and back show progress on the demand from. If you build it they will come. Expect to lift of in 2017, this could sow the seeds for a more economically sustainable voyages into Space.
Space needs capitalism. Only when sustained demand is created can you support an industrial base which will bring technological improvements and investments and feedback into lower cost for cargo to Space. Space is in a chicken an egg situation. Once re usability of Orbital crafts are proven by either SpaceX or Reaction Engines with their Skylon SSTO, will we see the flood gates open. It will be like broadband for the Internet and will unleash an economic tide so great that it will make the Tech boom look feeble.