Out of energy order
by Sam Dinkin
|There are low-energy destinations that people will not pay enough for and there are high-energy destinations that people will pay a lot for.|
In order to service such a market, there are several upgrades required for current planned UAB systems. Rockets will have to become much less finicky. Specifically, they will have to be on time nearly as often as flights into LAX are now (85%). Otherwise, the speed advantage will be dissipated. Safety will also need to be improved: P2P will need to be nearly as safe as airline travel or about .035 fatalities per 100,000,000 passenger-kilometers. These tasks may be insurmountable at a cost point that justifies the investment to develop the service. If so, we may need to await the development of the business spacecraft market which may be as far behind UAB suborbital as the new supersonic business jets are behind the Concorde. If supersonic business jets are still around, the premium P2P will command over UAB will be even lower. Since P2P is probably more than five years off, the cost of opening a second spaceport will probably not be incurred by the P2P operator because UAB flights will probably already be launching out of both spaceports.
Prices will have to come down for UAB before P2P will be offered. The refurbishment time will be lower with UAB because there will be fewer thermal systems and smaller, simpler engines. Capital utilization will therefore be higher with UAB. By scheduling more flights, UAB operators will be able to have a higher profit than P2P operators until the cost difference is covered by the difference in the willingness to pay.
Purpose-built P2P craft might not be built at all. The P2P market and fast package delivery market might be served by orbital craft. If orbital craft have already been developed to serve orbital flights and that market gets saturated, P2P may be worth the operations costs to deploy.
|Purpose-built P2P craft might not be built at all. The P2P market and fast package delivery market might be served by orbital craft.|
Orbital is likely to be developed out of order because hotels can just stay up there. That means stays can be quite long in luxurious quarters compared to P2P vehicles. That makes the orbital America’s Space Prize a more appropriate follow up to the X Prize than a P2P prize, even with the larger energy required to achieve it.
Taking this logic into the rest of the Earth-Moon system, we can see that other tourism opportunities will probably develop out of energy order:
Lowest energy is not necessarily the highest science and prestige payoff per dollar either. That may put Mars within reach for a flags-and-footprints mission. The media rights alone may make such a flight worthwhile before long. Lowest energy is not the highest profit. So, we won’t see Heinlein’s Antipodes P2P service for a while. Perhaps not until well after his dream for Lunar colonization is fulfilled.