In order to discuss the business, finance, and policy approaches for creating low cost and reliable space transportation, it helps to have an understanding of the underlying technology, in order to provide context for those discussions. It also happens to be a lot easier for one trained primarily as an engineer (and whose business experience mostly comes from a couple of classes that I was able to sneak in during my formal schooling, listening to people who know more than I do, and a little bit of firsthand experience at the whole entrepreneurism thing) to discuss the technological part of the problem.
Last week, I was asked to do a remote guest lecture for a university course on space development (being run by Dr Livingston). It was somewhat flattering to be grouped in the same category as much more experienced space technologists, pundits, and businessmen such as Dennis Wingo, Michael Kelly, Jeff Foust, and others. As part of the presentation on developing reusable orbital transportation, I discussed a short list of orbital space transportation approaches that I felt were the most promising directions for development.
So, over the next several weeks, I want to take a little bit of time to introduce and discuss some of those proposed approaches for reusable orbital transportation. Now, a lot of this may be a boring rehash for fellow engineers and technologists, but hopefully I can provide some useful discussion for those coming to this industry from non-engineering backgrounds. I’m planning on discussing the basic concept behind each approach, the potential pros and cons, the unknowns that need resolving for said approaches, and some thoughts on incremental development methods for resolving those unknowns. I may also go into some of the other topics I discussed such as my ideas on reusable transportation markets.
My goal is to provide a basic understanding of where we are, what we think some potential solutions might look like, and an understanding of some of the more probable paths that could take us from here to there (technologically). With that information as a background, it will hopefully make it easier to discuss how business, financing, and government policy issues tie in with the technological situation.
Hopefully I’m not biting off more than I can chew.