Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cheap access to Space

I've been looking at Birch's space schemes yet again... everything from the orbital ring system, to dynamic suspension members and terraforming Venus and Mars. I don't have the math or engineering background, but I like how he talks about actually paying for all this blue sky!

Basically, there has to be a way to provide and pay for cheap access to space. My Solar Power Bubbles provide highly mobile power generation and is a 'mad scheme' which should pay for itself, without really being 'blue-sky'. Modifying the idea to build a soft, inflatable version of the Billig Tower, to provide localized climate control, starving hurricanes of moisture and steering them away from cities and coast-lines, while also providing drinking water and hydropower, is 'blue', but a logical next step. Launch services from altitude for micro-satellites is a deeper blue, but most 'blue-sky' of all is a mass- or Free Electron Laser-beam launching orbiters.

That's what I'd expect of the nano-slick; in fact, I've been there, done that, and I'm going to run through it again. A massive flock of 60 meter nano-slick bubbles, each with a free-electron laser or maser, focusing power on the underside of a myrabo lightship, or ablating carbon-fibers or polymers off of the backside of the orbiter... how do you make FEL??? I'm going to wave my hands and assume carbon-stuff can be formed into a phased array FEL and go back to the flock, lighting up the backside of a dense plastic disk, or cone for stability. Power wastage is a major sin, but we have a lot of capacity...

A meter cone orbiter is 1m*1/2m^2*pi/3 or pi/12m^3, approximately 11/42, call it 1/4m^3 and density of 1.2 g/cc, or 300 kg. We're leaving the engine at home, ablating material off of the orbiter and guesstimating a specific impulse of 260 seconds, call it all of 250 m/s^2 (which sucks! 8-), but our fuel and payload are one and the same for this example; payload is just what's left of the cone when it reaches orbit and re-circularizes, somehow... nearly 8 kilos to 9500 m/s, a payload fraction of a little over 2%. Scale up, make the thing a double cone 3m wide and 3m long,and it's 8 1/2 tonnes at launch, 200 kg into orbit (Vinny-rated, in other words...).

Power to feed the drive is ~10 times (250m/s)^2*8500kg, or 553 billion joules, 154 MW-hr of electricity, over four hours output from a 585m nano-slick bubble. The polymer and payload are trivial outputs for one of those; they produce 99 tonnes of nano-slick material or other carbon-stuff every day. Even for 1km solar power bubble, that's still over six hours of electrical production, worth over $15K at ten cents a KW-hr.

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