Space Launch – The Big Picture Part 2.
Recent History and Predictions for what is next
Last week I discussed why the world’s space launch industry is moving towards Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLVs). The prime reason is that critical elements in rockets have reached a technical maturity where un-subsidized private industry can build and operate an RLV. The space market has always been there. It’s just that now the technologies exist to provide low-cost access to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and capture the commercial orbital space market, which can make LEO an exciting and very profitable location to do business.
LEO business will start out with high-end tourism hotels and quickly branch out to Space Business Parks where companies can pay to have experts conduct zero-gee testing and manufacturing. There are literally thousands of materials that can be made in zero-gee and no where else. In zero-gee you can mix materials of different densities and let them harden into a uniform material. This is impossible if gravity is present. Also, in Zero-gee you can 3-D print complex shapes and even human organs that would be impossible in a gravity field. The products are almost endless as we found out during the NASA-Sponsored Commercial Space Transportation Study (CSTS) back in 1993/4 (Ref 1).
This hasn’t happened yet because NASA never provided heat rejection for the U.S. Laboratory Module (i.e., hooked up the radiators