On Wednesday of this week, both Michael Jennings and I attended a talk given by James C Bennett at the IEA, organised by the Economic Policy Centre, about private sector space development. I was curious about where the money is either now being made in space, or is about to be made, and asked about that. Military espionage, communications satellites, tourism, and (eventually - but how soon?) mining the solar system for physical stuff, right?
Nearly. It will be some time before off-earth mining gets seriously going. But the big immediate omission from that list turned out to be: transport!
Basically, low earth orbit is an economically rational way to do what Concorde did but failed to do rationally. Getting money-no-object business execs, and high value cargo like urgent legal documents, from A to B in two hours rather than six or ten, basically. I had assumed that the only people who would soon be “going into space” would be doing this purely for the fun of it. Not so. No need to land where you took off from. Why not go somewhere?