Tycho Trading Post and Inn

john hare

I stumbled into another Mars First!!! rants a few days ago giving all the reasons why Mars would be developed ahead of the moon. I didn’t see any reason to change my opinion this time either. Given a reasonable amount of free market in space, the moon is a a clear winner. The only way that Mars will be developed first is by a top down, massive effort with myopic focus on the red planet.

The reason free enterprise would develop the moon first is time to market, perceived multiple markets, and financial barriers to entry, any or all of which a single megaproject would have to ignore to hit Mars first. The most obvious aspect of these problems with Mars vs Moon is travel time and launch windows to destination. A ship to Mars must do a serious check out of every system and all alternative systems (back ups) in orbit before the launch window opens. The mars ship then has several months in a Hohman orbit to Mars, followed by several more months at Mars waiting on a launch window back to Earth, and then a Hohman orbit back to Earth. The time involved means that the Mars ship will not be available for the next launch window back to Mars and must wait many more months before its’ second mission to the red planet can start. The Mars ship can, at best, use launch windows roughly 52 months apart. A Lunar ship can do 50-200 runs to Lunar orbit and back in the meantime. This means that a Lunar ship can be sized at 2%  of the Mars ships size, and still haul at least equal tonnage. A ten ton Lunar ship can almost certainly beat a five hundred ton Mars ship to market.

If you wish to make the argument that a Mars settlement ship could be initiated with say fifty tons, then equivalent delivery to the moon could be done with a one ton ship. These relatively smaller ships for the Lunar trade could also be used throughout cislunar space for placing, repairing, or recovering satellites as well as various prospecting and local exploration jobs. The Mars ships could have no other revenue streams.

There are other considerations. A Mars settlement ship will need to have every possible commodity required for years of survival either on board or delivered in advance before it leaves Earth orbit.  The Lunar ship can par the list down considerably for essentials and almost eliminate the back up systems for the back up systems. Two or three deliveries to the Lunar surface could possibly suffice for a start on early development with less than ten percent of the material needed for a safe Mars settlement. Given the possibility of rapid return if necessary, and crew rotation on a schedule, an initial Lunar base could be as small as one person, while a Mars base might need a half dozen or more to keep the crew reasonably sane.

The point of a free enterprise type system favoring the Lunar surface over that of Mars is that no one individual, nation, or company needs to do the whole job however “the job” is defined. I think the trading post and inn just might be a more realistic development scenario than many of the highly focused plans. One relatively small company places a minimal shelter on the moon. The people that run the trading post sell oxygen, food, tanks, and repair services to people that come to the moon for their own reasons as well as buy the used equipment and surplus provisions when they leave. Next the trading post would be renting those used suits, rovers, robots and drills to people that come to the moon for different purposes entirely. Eventually there would be an extensive inventory of useful and useless equipment and supplies available at the trading post and inn. A brisk trade in whatever Lunar materials are found useful could develop at the same time.

The inn part of the business would be a throwback to centuries past when an inn might be the only place in several days’ travel to sleep indoors and eat food that you hadn’t caught yourself. A tiny facility that allowed people to relax a short while and get a decent bath, talk to others in person,  or even get drunk which would likely be fatal out in the open country. A place where it is possible to recharge the personal batteries before going at it again.

The implications of the trading post model are only obvious to a small percentage of the people with our esoteric interests. There are many that focus on various top down development plans that miss the possibilities of a free market settlement. There are those that will read this post and immediately insist that Tycho is the wrong location because the settlement must obviously be at the north pole, south pole, highlands, lowlands, far side or wherever. They will insist that the initial development must be done with robots, or a massive dug in base, or for the purpose manufacturing LLOX or, radio astronomy, or some other purpose that is clearly the most urgent reason to invest the billions for Lunar development. The trading post model is a way to start developing the moon without the billions from a single source. A way to get started without a government program or other massive investment source.

Launch costs to LEO coming to $500.00 a pound or so with reliable launch on demand would be a prerequisite for the scenario I suggest here. $500.00 a pound to LEO should allow $2,000.00 a pound to LLO, and then perhaps $8,000.00 a pound to the Lunar surface. Any numbers here will be based on that $8,000.00 a pound to deliver Earth people and products to the Lunar surface.

After enough information is available for some company or individual to make a decision, a ten ton first module is delivered to the Lunar surface with one person to run the post. At $8,000.00 a pound, that is about $160M for transportation costs and about that much more for the actual hardware for an initial investment of $320M for the facility. Bunk beds for three people, a kitchen, some supplies, and an airlock are the minimum requirements for Tycho Trading Post and Inn #1. Rental space suits may or may not be available early on. Tycho was selected because other companies had already already staked out the prime locations at the poles and elsewhere.

The first customers might be prospectors, explorers,  or tourists as long as they have a checkbook or line of credit. Each person with their gear could be as little as 500 pounds delivered to the Lunar surface for a price tag of $4M each. They can pay to sleep in a bunk, purchase consumables as needed, and hire minor repairs from the resident trader/innkeeper. If they need 10 pounds of consumables per day, that is $80,000.00 cost to the post with mark up to $100,000.00 a day to the customer plus bunk and equipment rents to perhaps double that. At $200,000.00 a day average, a tourist can spend a month at the inn for a total of $10M including transportation. They can sell their suit and other disposable goods to the trader at a steep discount when they leave.

A prospecting couple might spend six months on the surface with only a few days at the Inn given the right camping equipment. That might be a few  tons of equipment and supplies initially with provisions bought when needed.  The total package might cost them $100M including transportation. If they will not need the equipment they brought again, they might sell it to the post so that the post now has a used rover, camping equipment, and prospecting tools available for rent.

A robot developer might send a mechanic with a half dozen robots to iron out the hardware and software kinks  before putting them on the market. Depending on details, a month of field troubleshooting might cost the developer $10M or so after which that company has a field tested Lunar exploration robot available for sale. The mechanic will probably leave the tools behind so the post now has more repair capability.

When somebody starts producing resources from Lunar materials, the trading post will be right there to buy them for sale to the next group that needs those products, or even ship to Earth objects of sufficient value. As the post expands organically, people will need to bring less and less stuff with them for use or survival. A 200 pound person in shirtsleeves could get there and spend a few days for $2M or so after a while, or even weeks for the same money when in situ provisions are available.

As costs come down, more amenities become available like the baths and bar mentioned earlier, with exercise facilities and racket ball, dancing, gambling and fine dining. When the worlds oldest profession becomes the moons’ 100th oldest profession, I think it is safe to suggest that settlement is well and truly started.




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I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.

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25 Responses to Tycho Trading Post and Inn

  1. mike shupp says:

    I really like this basic idea. It isn’t close to MY notion of how a moon base might gradually grow from something like an AF base into a bona fide settlement, but it sounds like a very possible alternative, especially if transport costs decline as you hope. It offers ideas for improving my ideas.

    Please expand your ideas.

  2. john hare says:

    The ideas are not mutually exclusive. Your AF base settlement might be too restrictive for some of the types that would prefer more autonomy. Or, like ISS, the rules for visiting may not allow random unapproved visitors at all. The tpinns might be by companies or countries that the major players don’t even want on the moon. The tpinns could be in areas with resources apparent only to the delusional as with many of the gold camps of centuries past. In short, many tpinns in many locations by many players, not all of which are successful or even rational.

    I think the true development of the moon will happen around desires and requirements that we don’t even know about without serious boots on the ground. Some boots well organized as in the AF base, and some at seemingly random like gold prospectors and fur trappers. I consider it entirely possible that the top down model will miss economic and development opportunities that will be obvious only in hindsight. Like the $trillion He3 harvesting operation that is discarding high grade uranium ore that could power the Lunar development for centuries. Or the massive LLOX from regolith plant investment before some clown finds a trillion ton deposit of frozen pure oxygen.

    Lunar development would be reasonably possible at current launch prices if some in space transportation work were done. An LEO tether to launch sub-orbital vehicles to and catch from trans-lunar orbits, backed up with a Lunar rotovator, would get the Lunar surface prices down to those in this post at current launch prices.

  3. Chris (Robotbeat) says:

    But what should /NASA/ do? Perhaps lunar development doesn’t need much but a customer in NASA. In that case, developing an Exploration Gateway at EML1 or EML2 to prepare for a Mars mission would encourage lunar development…. You have a much shorter trip from the Moon to customer, and the product (consumables like propellant and oxygen and water) will be more valuable, since it is further out of the Earth’s gravity well.

    NASA can go to Mars, using private lunar development. We can’t trust NASA to build the whole lunar ISRU economy in a top-down manner, but they will want to buy propellant and stuff if they’re going to Mars.

    I’m in favor of an orbital Mars mission, perhaps visiting Phobos or Deimos, first. We can basically do that with existing technology, once we’ve figured out long-duration spaceflight (they’ve approved year-long ISS stints, now… and modern microgravity countermeasures are FAR better than they were for Mir). It just requires a really small version of ISS (the same as a gateway, essentially) and a little better propulsion.

    But do we really want to have NASA muck up lunar development with a top-down command economy model? NASA is far better suited as just a purchaser of lunar consumables at EML2, IMHO.

  4. DougSpace says:

    The issue of the relatively low-cost initial telerobotic operations, lower gravity, and relatively safety of repairmen means that the Moon will be the natural first body to be developed. However, the Musk argument is essentially that human payloads act different in the market than commodity payloads. If more people are willing to pay to go to Mars than the Moon, then the market is greater for that and so investment dollars will flow in that direction. But initially, I’m still of the mind that going either places will be so expensive and relatively dangerous that relatively few will be willing to put up enough money to make much of a business case either way. But a few human workers on the Moon repairing hundreds of telerobots and also extracting the metal to make the bulky parts for yet more robots means that the Moon can be economically viable on an industrial scale in a way that would take a long time for Mars to equal. The cycle time, however, is a significant consideration too.

  5. DougSpace says:

    The issue of the relatively low-cost initial telerobotic operations, lower gravity, and relatively safety of repairmen means that the Moon will be the natural first body to be developed. However, the Musk argument is essentially that human payloads act different in the market than commodity payloads. If more people are willing to pay to go to Mars than the Moon, then the market is greater for that and so investment dollars will flow in that direction. But initially, I’m still of the mind that going either places will be so expensive and relatively dangerous that relatively few will be willing to put up enough money to make much of a business case either way. But a few human workers on the Moon repairing hundreds of telerobots and also extracting the metal to make the bulky parts for yet more robots means that the Moon can be economically viable on an industrial scale in a way that would take a long time for Mars to equal. The cycle time, however, is a significant consideration too and it applies to human transport as well.

  6. john hare says:

    Given a free market approach, it may not matter what NASA does in the long run. I agree that NASA running a top down operation is almost useless as a Lunar development plan. I have even less confidence in them executing a Mars mission in a timely and financially sane manner. It is less the agency itself that I have no faith in, rather it is the congressional porkmeisters that make effectiveness unlikely.

    The availability of on site troubleshooting makes the robot scenario far more likely to be successful than the launch and pray that some now seem to believe sufficient. I agree that human payloads are different.

    Most human payloads strongly prefer destinations accessible in a timely manner, advantage moon. Financially, the Lunar trip should be a fraction the cost of the Mars trip irregardless of their reasons for the trip, advantage moon. I’m reasonably certain that single digit millions for a person to spend month on the moon will be considerably more popular than double or triple digit millions to spend six months on Mars with eight or so months in a cramped* spaceship both to and from the destination.

    The apparent popularity of sub-orbital spaceflight is largely a function of the price compared to an orbital trip. If Elon suddenly made available a week in orbit for a half million, Virgin Galactic would be out of business. By the same reasoning, if a Mars trip was double the time and cost of a moon trip, the moon would be largely bypassed. The Lunar vs Mars time however, is a factor of sixty and the costs will be of similar order.

    *Cramped is relative. A person that can afford a trip to Mars would be claustrophobic in my house.

  7. Paul451 says:

    To me, Mars seems hopeless beyond Flags’n’footprints. No long term settlement can survive without trade, and Mars can’t trade to any off-planet market. Whereas, the moon possibly, just possibly, can export resources for existing and future in-space markets, supplied less than the launch cost from Earth. (Initially, things like water/air/fuel.) If you can trade, the base/settlement/colony will expand naturally.

    (Ditto asteroids, which I consider even more likely than the moon, provided we can get enough science missions funded to develop the know-how to allow that first step. Because if we can figure out how to live on or in one asteroid, we can figure out them all. And a lot of moons throughout the solar system. And supply a lot of capability to aid missions and development throughout the solar system (hell, even to Mars.))

    If you can’t trade, if you can’t become self-funding, as with Mars, then you are totally dependent on one-way support from Earth, potentially for centuries. And no tool we develop for Mars (with the possible exception of the transport to Mars) can be used anywhere else, no resource on Mars helps us develop anywhere else in the solar system.

    My concern is that so many people are fixated on Mars as “Man’s Second Home” and “The Most Earthlike planet” that they can’t see what a trap Mars is, and they’ll inevitably lead every promising space program (public or private) down that same hole.

  8. Peterh says:

    The moon and Mars may end up being settled by people trying to get some distance from the nuts running the show here on Earth. In which case profit from trade back home won’t be so important if the cost to migrate and settle drops in range of their personal finances.

  9. DougSpace says:

    Paul451, what about “trading in bits”? Musk and Zubrin’s argument on this point is that what will be shipped is intellectual property. So, think about engineering designs, patents, TV shows, etc. Answering my own question, whereas this product is high value and can be shipped cheaply to the market back on Earth, I think that it is limited because there is little advantage to that product being produced at less cost here on Earth. It is not a necessity to produce the intellectual property on Mars. That can be done on Earth without paying the costs to move and live on Mars.

    Zubrin’s other argument is that Mars will be part of a three-way commerce where the asteroid belt is shipping product to Earth, Mars is providing support services to the asteroidal mining operations, and Earth is paying Mars indirectly for the services it provides to the asteroidal mining operations. The problem that I have with this logic is two-fold. First, it will take a long time to reach economic viability. Secondly, there are a lot of asteroids. Ones closer to Earth orbit will be favored first and those have enough resources to satisfy the market for quite some time.

  10. Paul451 says:

    “Answering my own question”

    Hey no fair, I was gonna give the same answer.

    I will add that, certainly during the early stages, any intellectual property developed on Mars will belong to the sponsors. Either as science for a government program, or direct ownership by corporate sponsors. There’s still no actual physical income being created to allow the colony to eventually become independent. The argument for supporting Mars will be more like trying to justify science funding here, the cost is a simple line item in the budget, while the benefit is vague and spread out. And you have to keep making that justification, every funding cycle, until Mars has a full Earth-level manufacturing ability, so probably centuries.

    OTOH, once you start seeing ISRU material being shipped back (whether to support space missions, or actually returned to Earth) there’s a direct dollar value. And there’ll still be all the vague IP return to the economy as people solve unique problems in unique ways. And the science return. And it allows whole missions that would otherwise be impossible. And it lowers the cost for other commercial ventures… etc etc…

    “Three-way commerce” … “Mars is providing support services to the asteroidal mining operations,”

    Yeah, I’ve heard that argument. But I can never see any justification for why the “support service” would need to be on Mars? What does Mars have that anywhere else in the solar system lacks?

    IMO, the best way to drop the cost of permanently colonising the moon and Mars is to exploit asteroid resources. Colonising Mars would still be a stupid idea, but if it’s self-financing, I don’t care, just another customer for the
    real space settlements.

  11. ken anthony says:

    I both agree and disagree with you John. Great post.

  12. ken anthony says:

    Thank you John for the reference to ‘Trans Mars Injection.’ I’ve updated my post.

  13. justin says:

    What do you think the single greatest economic factor will be that would cause a private company to send anything to the moon? I’m just wondering what your opinion is on this.

  14. johnhare johnhare says:

    In my opinion, the early people and equipment sent to the moon will virtually all be chasing some vision or another of the one funding that particular trip. That is why I think the idea of sending a mission for some top down purpose will ever be inferior to a distributed desire to go. I think some will go for science, (or at least use it as an excuse) and some will try for some type of mineral wealth. Still others will go for tourism and the bragging rights from going without any realistic expectation of a financial return. Some will be thinking in terms of settling, and others in terms of profiting from them. In short, the single greatest factor will not be single at all, except in the desire to go

  15. ken anthony says:

    I’m still of the mind that going either places will be so expensive and relatively dangerous that relatively few will be willing to put up enough money to make much of a business case either way.

    This is the key problem. It may be that the cost remains too high for any colonists to migrate perhaps forever. But there is a solution.

    Agree to a settlement charter which makes reasonable property claims. I suggest reasonable is…

    One sq. km. per colonist. Worth over a million dollars during the life of the colonist as it is developed and sold to new colonists or speculators on earth. Essentially, anyone could go, becoming a millionaire (by accrual method) the moment they sign on. This compensates a bit for risking their lives.

    1000 sq. km per colonist transported to the company that provides it. Worth perhaps a billion dollars after a decade of speculation and development.

    So if 40 colonists were transported at no cost to themselves, the company doing it might spend about $10b and net a $30b return.

    That’s assuming nothing cheaper than a dragon 2 for landing and Falcon Heavy for launch.

  16. ken anthony says:

    There is the additional cost of spacesuits which the transportation company will provide to the colonist for free as part of their transportation. One metric ton of supplies will be purchased by the colonist but included in their free transportation. The company will have approval of the supplies since having the colonist survive has much to do with their ROI.

  17. john hare says:

    The problems I see with your basic premise will have to be addressed in a blog post as a flip answer in comments would be just negative sniping. Maybe in a week or so.

  18. justin says:

    Thanks for your responses! However I was looking more for a realistic “bottom up” economic incentive for companies to send something to the moon, assuming that property rights won’t be granted anytime soon and a that a general desire to go to the moon doesn’t provide a good enough economic incentive to go.

    This would come from a chain of technological advances that would eventually results in a company reaping an economic benefit from the moon. Fore example, advances in cryogenic propellant storage and propellant transfer technologies might result in the development for a small LOX/LH2 engine for stationkeeping. If this new engine for stationkeeping and attitude adjustment is widely adopted by the satellite industry, a private company might see an economic benefit to refuel satellites with H2/Ox from the moon.

    The moon propellant depot is a pretty popular scenario, however the chain of technologies required for this to happen is quite extensive. Many of these technologies haven’t been realized yet I’m skeptical that this will happen anytime soon.

    Are there alternative moon product/service scenarios you guys can think of that would provide that economic incentive? Preferably ones with a smaller technology tree that needs to be realized and a shorter timeframe to realize?

  19. john hare says:

    I have gone as far as I know how in the direction you want. Unfortunately, There are serious barriers to entry for Lunar development.

  20. Warren Platts says:

    LCROSS possibly discovered anomalously high gold concentrations. A possible theory that could explain this is electrostatic separation and transport. At roughly $50K/kg, gold is one product that is almost worth it to ship back to Planet Earth. Also, unlike the market for PGM’s, the gold market is big enough to support an infusion measured in hundreds of tonnes per year without crashing the price. Thus a Lunar gold mining operation could generate 10’s of billions of USD per year potentially. Heck, the gold technically wouldn’t even have to be shipped back to Earth: if they could figure out a way to make gold bars to London Good Delivery standards, they could set up their own vault and “allocate” the gold to purchasers on the Earth!

  21. ken anthony says:

    The problems I see with your basic premise will have to be addressed in a blog post as a flip answer in comments would be just negative sniping. Maybe in a week or so.

    John, can you outline those problems? Your feedback is valuable to me. I am in eager anticipation of your forthcoming post.

  22. john hare says:

    Work is good at the moment and solid rocket fuel is the key, so posting will wait. Any quick outline in comments is far more insulting than useful without proper backing and becomes a whack a mole and strawman argument.

    For instance, if the company can lay claim to a thousand kilometers per colonist delivered, why can’t they just claim the whole thing and be done with it? Why can’t another company just muscle in? What’s stopping the third world from using the UN to tie up the Earth assets claimant companies in court? And so on.

    Outlining these problems like this, in a manner you can easily refute, is basically accusing you of not thinking the problems through without offering evidence that I have. Think of it as an irritating variation on the Geatano Syndrome.

  23. gbaikie says:

    “As costs come down, more amenities become available like the baths and bar mentioned earlier, with exercise facilities and racket ball, dancing, gambling and fine dining. When the worlds oldest profession becomes the moons’ 100th oldest profession, I think it is safe to suggest that settlement is well and truly started.”

    It seems to me the first thing one does on the Moon is you make rocket fuel.
    Once someone starts selling rocket fuel on the Moon. Everything changes.
    Selling rocket fuel plus time means price of rocket fuel drops.

    The early potential market for rocket fuel, would probably NASA and other space agencies.
    To have enough market for lunar rocket, it seems you have to able to make rocket fuel cheap enough to sell lunar rocket fuel in lunar orbit and high Earth orbit [and Mars orbit, or Venus, Mercury, whatever orbit].
    So if someone’s destination is the Moon and you selling in lunar orbit you selling 3 times more rocket fuel than if simply sold at lunar surface. You using rocket fuel to bring up the rocket, and returning lunar surface to get more rocket fuel. And of course selling rocket fuel to other destinations other those to the lunar surface.

    So getting to point of being able to sell rocket fuel to lunar to lunar orbit is critical point to get to in terms of lunar water mining and rocket fuel making. And it’s critical point for anyone wanting to go to the Moon- because with such rocket fuel available you greatly increased access to the Moon. The launch vehicles existing in countries such Europe, China, Russian, Japan, and of course a few American launch companies, can send people to the Moon. If have a rocket that can send a ton payload to Earth escape, then you could manage it.
    With rocket fuel at surface and lunar orbit, you can easily have a reusable vehicle that take things from lunar orbit to lunar surface and from lunar surface to orbit. Plus have variety tugs that move things from lunar orbit to other places in high earth orbit. With tugs able to refuel in high Earth orbit, they go anywhere in High earth orbit, such as GEO and all L-points. Moving satellites, collecting dead satellites or scrap, and/or possibly getting small space rock in an ideal trajectories- if someone can find them.

    But point is once at the point of selling lunar rocket fuel at lunar surface and lunar orbit. And it stays viable business, then adding time gives lower rocket fuel prices.
    Of course if there a lot volume of rocket fuel needed, the price rocket fuel drop quicker and of course those making and selling rocket fuel going to try to sell as much rocket as they can. But even if they don’t get some huge contract, like 1000 tons per year to NASA or Dept of Defense- which have huge effect, eventually prices will drop.
    So before you get the hotel and whores, you see rocket fuel being around $100 per lb on lunar surface. Which is essentially like price rocket fuel on Earth- not a significant cost.
    With rocket fuel at $200,000 per ton getting to Mars is much different than today’s reality- you buy a hundred million dollars of rocket fuel and get to Mars fast. Though getting to Mercury might be quicker and more useful.
    And given more time and/or volume of lunar rocket fuel sold, $10 per lb on lunar surface could easily possible.

    In terms scale and time line. From start of lunar water mining one might selling rocket fuel for as much a $5000 per lb at the lunar surface, and needs the cost down so charge about 2000 per lb to sell to lunar orbit. It seems from point one selling at 2000 per lb until the point where selling for $10 per lb would less than 50 years. And depending how plays, gettting from $5000 to $10 per lb could take little as a decade.
    And it seems quite possible that if the drop in price is fast [about 10 years], the lunar water miner could make more profit, as compared it taking 50 years to lower in price. And seems like any business one could bankruptcies, but it seems any party that lower it’s costs and price to quickest will tend to make the most money.
    And if all involve do this really fast, all will probably make a lot of money. But the controlling factor is how much volume [or market] is available. So let’s look at extremes. First year 50 ton, next year 500, next year 1000, next year 2000 tons, thereafter 20% growth.
    It doesn’t one could better than this except one could better than 20% growth- but it’s too important.
    The critical part is first three years. The quantities involved are insignificant- somewhere around a swimming pool of water. The real hard part is getting this much market demand. Next hard part having enough electrical power to split the water.
    Both these aspects isn’t something one needs to “pay much money for”. You could buy electrical power by kilowatt hour and arrange customers before spending much capital. One has to manage this in some fashion and that takes some talent- or all the talent really needed.
    So make simple: 50 tons sells for $5000 per lb [10 million per ton]
    500 tons sells for $2000 per lb [4 million per ton]
    So 500 million and 2 billion.
    Year three $2000 to $1500 per lb and 1000 tons- 4 to 3 billion.
    And probably sell business for more than 10 billion at year 2 or 3.
    So one can’t invest more than 5 billion, and if don’t sell business
    one is starting to see black by year 3. But pretty unlikely.
    As said it’s more demand than one could expect. And looking what could fastest price could drop. And if US govt was rational it could buy 5 billion of rocket fuel [for something] and thereby save 50 billion costs to Manned Mars [but that is crazy to expect the government to function in such a fashion]. But continuing:
    Year four: 2000 tons at $1000 per lb [2 million per ton], 4 billion dollars.
    Year five: 2400 tons at $500 per lb, 2.4 billion dollars.

    So far I have not gone into costs. Up front costs less than 5 billion.
    One said one buy electrical power per kw hour. That like the rocket fuel will be expensive in the beginning. But the price electrical power should drop similar to price of rocket fuel. It might be $50 per kw hour, and by 5 year mark it also could around $5 per kw hour, though perhaps $20 per kW hour. It’s not by itself big factor,
    but one should also be having all operations costs lowering. And if there significantly more market one could add to your production capacity at much lower costs. And this also mean someone new can have lowering start up costs- though start up lacks all the experience your company has gained.
    Year 6: 2880 tons at $400 per lb, 2.3 billion
    At this price point a lower the cost of electrical power should/must be below $10 kW hour. It could be reasonable many parts of say solar panels for electrical production are made on the Moon. And possible every aspect is or will made on the Moon.
    It is also possible that mining space rocks to provide rocket fuel to high earth orbit is planned or occurring. This is bad because more 1/2 one’s market could undercut your cost of shipping it up to lunar orbit, but also good because it means one could also mean significantly increase of demand for rocket fuel at the lunar surface, and lower your costs of shipping anything to the Moon and hard for them to compete in the lunar surface market.
    And should noted that one could possible be selling lunar rocket fuel at LEO if rocket fuel at LEO has not already significantly lowered. And Asteroid mining will probably sell rocket fuel at LEO at prices competitive. to rocket fuel shipped from Earth
    Year 7: 3456 tons at $300 per lb, 2 billion dollars,
    One may have someone building some kind mass drivers on the lunar surface. This may be good, as allows one sell rocket fuel at lunar orbit or LEO at lower costs. And even without such things at $300 per lb, you could possibly sell lunar rocket fuel for about $1500 per lb at LEO. Though it quite possible it at this point it is already selling for $1000 per lb or less.
    Year 8: 4147 tons at $200 per lb, 1.65 billion.
    Significantly less gross income. But one has to have lower operational costs, one has not really invested much more to increase production, and if got significantly more market demand, it would different. You still mining a bit over typical swimming pool of water. This not a massive mining operation. It’s fairly massive in terms energy needs but it’s also possible this operation isn’t consuming the most amount of electrical power on the moon- as compared to entire economy on the Moon.
    If you sell in additional 1000 tons of rocket at LEO, that would be about 50% increase in total production. So if instead of 20% increase, the total was 6000 tons [with rocket fuel at LEO sold at about $1000 per lb] then yearly gross would be 2.4 billion.
    Year 9: 4977 tons at $100 per lbs, .99 billion
    So need electrical power to be somewhere lower than $5 per Kw and $5 would large part of costs. So one probably need about $1
    per Kw hour. Or tack amount over to rocket fuel price.
    If there is no cheaper rocket fuel made from Asteroid mining, at $100 per lb at lunar surface, one probably deliver rocket fuel to LEO cheaper than from Earth.
    Year 10: 5972 tons at $10 [plus electrical costs], 119 million.
    Again assuming asteroid miners are delivering at lower cost,
    one should definitely able to sell rocket at LEO for lower cost than shipping from Earth. It could less less than $100 per lb. Which means one could capture all traffic leaving Earth- anything going to GEO, the Moon, Mars, or where ever. At such a price, one could consider worth using rocket power to reduce the re-entry speed to Earth. If you knock off say 4 km/sec off orbital speed, one might be able to re-entry with something like SpaceShipOne sub-orbital craft.
    So, say at lunar orbit/L-1 rocket fuel was $30 to $40 per lb, or 60,000 to 80,000 per ton. Or 6 to 8 million per 100 ton.
    Say at this point in development, a seat to LEO costs about 100K, and perhaps a 1/4 million to go to lunar surface.
    Say 25% of this cost is the vehicle you using. So 7 min up to LEO, and 3- 4 days to Moon. Or say the vehicle costs 5000 per day. And a Mars vehicle also cost $5000 per day.
    So 210 days to Mars is about 1 million dollars.
    So the slow boat to Mars cost 1 million per seat.
    Or you spend 6 to 8 million for additional delta-v and get there in less than 4 months. Does everyone choose to go the slow boat because it’s cheaper?
    Of course of you lower cost of rocket fuel by 1/10th the price: so it’s 3 to 4 dollars per lb, it could cheaper to go to Mars faster. Or perhaps it’s slightly more. At such point do people still choose the slow boat?

    So is it possible for rocket fuel to every sell for $3 to $4 per lb in space.
    When split 9 lbs of water you get 1 lb of hydrogen and 8 lbs of oxygen. If you splitting water on Earth, generally you just want the hydrogen. For rocket fuel you want about 6 of oxygen and 1 of hydrogen. So this means of electrical power was only slightly more expensive in space as it’s on Earth and water in space like buying mineral water or expensive bottled water, then yes you could buy rocket fuel at point for $3 to $4 per lb.
    And if think it’s remotely possible that one we harvest solar energy in space to transmitted to earth, you assuming electrical power can be cheaper in space as compared to on Earth.

  24. john hare says:

    The innkeeper will be glad to sell your prospectors oxygen and tools and rent them a place to sleep while they get the LOX factory running.

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