How Will the Next Space Age Unfold?


Didn’t you just describe the situation here on earth though?

Edit: The earth is capable of supporting all those who live upon it, yet we still fight for control of various resources etc.

I think the issue would be a bit more complex than “there’s plenty to go around”


Efficient devices do make sense. Especially if you have high demand. Mass drivers, active support structures or other efficient or high throughput transport systems. Even with cheap and relatively easy access to energy, an efficient system can make more use of said energy.

With enough population you can have huge demands for anything one might use. As for the Infinity:Universe. The conflict can be believable as long as it’s a “relative” small brawl in an otherwise large civilisation and such stuff is generally accepted to happen every now and then. Many reasons could be stated. Some more cliche than others. I think immaterial reasons are more believable though.
As for having a space elevator somewhere … that place needs to have something in high concentration there or most of that stuff needs to already have been extracted from easier to reach places in the system OR the system has many of those and other heavy infrastructure. A lone space elevator in an otherwise quite sparely built over system though I don’t find that believable.
It’s a game though and you could explain it as a prototype or prestige object or something.

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I’m not really saying that any of this is a good investment of capital. I’m just not sure landing entire asteroids on Earth (safely) is any more or less practical than refining asteroids into pure metals from space. What I am saying is that there are likely other options. Maybe some of them are options no one has considered yet.


It’s the huge disparity of scale that gets to me Hutch, about the equivalent of the population of Liechtenstein fighting over resources of the whole Earth, plus a handful of other planets.


I definitely understand the comparison. However, what of the technological limitations of the people in Liechtenstein, is such a small population capable of operating within an economy that can utilize the full resources of the earth?

I tend to see technological limitations as the barriers rather than the raw abundance of resources. Which is why I can imagine a number of large interstellar corporations fighting over the “easier” planetary systems to settle or mine. Expand that now to political or ideological aims between the factions, overpopulation, logistics and distribution issues in the core worlds, and I can see opportunity for a little conflict.


The IBS system is not being exploited properly to justify the conflict, assuming the current ‘factories’ on the surface ~0.00000001% of the earth-like planet is being utilized, plus there are additional planets. There is so much available resources that the conflict is hard to swallow.


The reason the BFR works for mining is that unlike capsules, you don’t actually have to build something and throw it away when you’re done. It seems kinda silly to launch the capsules on board of what is basically a giant capsule, and land things with those capsules. Capsules are expensive. The BFR can take 50 metric tons down at a time, which, for precious metals, is an extreme volume.

A single high output near earth asteroid could have enough precious metals to flood the market. A scientific prospecting mission could be one of the better things we do with our money for funding basic science.


We can. But we will not because what we lack is Manpower, some resources but surely not technology.
In a scenario where suddenly all population of earth vanishes except for Liechtenstein the limiting factor to reclaim earth would be the regrowth of the population.

I disagree. The only thing I could reasonably believe is if the interstellar magic drive has some form of weird limitation that can be optimized by making it better and thus allowing for further expansion. Corporation that do not have that technology have to duke it out to make a profit or fight for “financial” survival. It’s weird though because it’s something you may be able to easily steal and if it does not exist there’s no conflict because the outer reaches have not been exploited yet.
The Sol system could support unimaginable high numbers of people with near current technology.

As said. Immaterial motives are relatable to people even if they can’t relate to a world of unimaginable scale.
Immaterial things like artificial scarcity and the fight of some corporations to break the SpaceOPEC. Much more interesting than the chewed trough “fighting for survival” or “fight for the fittest” trope.

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You see the factories sit on the very rare sources of unobtanium, IBS system is one of the rare systems that has this resource that is used to make hyperdrives.
Not every planet has a source of it but every one of these planets becomes strategically important if you want to take and hold the planets that do have this material on them.

There ya go I just applied Babylon 5’s Quantium-40 to IBS so it makes sense.

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It’s inconsistent, the factories are spread around each planet and on different planets, hinting at some sort of uniform distribution of unobtanium, which wouldn’t be a normal case with real deposits.

Also and more importantly the competition for unobtanium is not being communicated to the player properly. There should be visual and design ques all over, glowing patches of land, floating rocks, huge mining pits, mines and factories that look like they are processing huge amounts of unobtanium, stations that look like they are performing a stage in the unobtanium process.

None of this is present, the bases are generic, the stations are generic, land is generic, there is nothing to hint at this system being special in any way. The player is as likely to guess there is unobtanium on the planet as he’s likely to guess that the inhabitants of the IBS universe build their factories/mines on the sacred coordinates given in their bible.

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Perhaps the EPA is uber powerful, and it severely limits the number of factories able to be built on planets. Gotta be green. :stuck_out_tongue:


Spice. Arrakis. The water of life.


Point still being that the game world should convey this hidden cause to the player, by distribution of bases, by the look of the bases, by special effects, sounds…


It definitely does for other populated planets in the infinity universe.

It can matter within IBS depending on the up/downmass for the colonies and on the technological limitations on our magic engines. If capital ship sized freighters can’t land on planets then it could make sense to have an orbital dock attached to the elavators that freighters load up at.

However for elevators to have any place within the universe you guys gotta make your planets rotate at the least. I don’t remember if they only rotate and not orbit or that they don’t do both.

For the building of it if self replicating factories and machines exist you just need to find a suitably sized asteroid(counter weight) and send the initial factory to it and wait. That’s way beyond us but for a sci fi world with magical engines it’s not a big deal imo.

That leads to whether it’s worth it to send a seed factory to the counter weight. If resources don’t really matter and you’re in the system for unobtanium them sure why not. If resources matter then maybe only if/once the colony is producing enough to require that much upmass.

Maybe you have some idea for the efficiency/thrust/cost/capacity of your small freighters and you can do a first principles look at mass of small ish freighters that can land on planets and compare the economics of the ship/crew and # of ships to the cost of renting/using a capital freighter and building an elevator and whether that’s necessary.

Probably not necessary for IBS but would be cool either way.

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I think a lot of people are writing out more fictional stories. With asteroid mining I meant that it is now actually plausible with the BFR. I guess I’m talking less about writing speculative fiction, and more about writing pure speculation based on facts about space and existing technology.

I see asteroid mining happening because of BFR’s cost reduction in access to space, pretty easily. The overall process goes as follows:

2020: BFR launches, is proven to work. This causes the true entrepreneurial drive for precious metal asteroid mining projects. Financially shown to be feasible.

2024: exploration missions find excellent candidate near-earth asteroids that are energetically close to earth.

2026: Elon Musk’s humans on Mars timeline was off by one orbital period due to unforeseen issues with safety ratings of BFR. The first humans land on Mars. Several suitable asteroids have been found, but the most suitable one happens to be very rich in several precious metals.

2028: A mining craft, assembled in orbit lands/docks with the asteroid and begins to extract ore. A secondary portion of the project arrives with it - one that refines ore to a point at which it’s 70-90% pure. The craft is designed to take advantage of zero g in terms of allowing for bulk collecting. A lightweight, high-efficiency tool is used: explosives and a net.

2029: after a year of harvesting with additional vessels sent and constructed relatively cheaply thanks to mass production and cheap launch costs of BFR-type rockets, there is a freely floating, 500 metric ton contained store of 80% pure platinum, gold and iridium, stored in large, unpressurized sacks. Total project cost at this point, including development, is about 40 billion dollars. It will cost about 30 million per launch to retrieve it on BFR (refueling). It will retrieve about 1 billion dollars in ore in its cargo bay.

2030: The development of in situ fuel production on Elon Musk’s mars colony is also now used in space to refuel the BFR and larger craft that have now started to seriously phase out the BFR. This is now used to keep transport costs in space low and to make trajectories more easily adjustable.

2032: the first of these mining vessels has now paid for itself. The 2000s become the major fashionable nostalgia decade, and styles are somewhat reflective of this. The inspiration and hope of the 2020s has paved way for yet another materialistic decade in the 2030s with the massive changes that have happened to the economy as a result of improvements to manufacturing, artificial intelligence and the benefits of asteroid mining.

2035: in 2028, the development of in-space manufacturing of mining components began as a project. This year, the first of these completes its manufacture of another vessel, made mostly with in-space resources. Despite advances in rocketry and aerospace technology, airplanes from the 2000s are still used in many ways. Port to port travel is now considered a serious possibility for rockets after developments in reliability were made possible by reuse and manufacture. Larger, and slightly less efficient per kilogram of rest mass than even today, rockets are now nearly as reliable as airplanes, which are still widely in use.

2038: SpaceX is now the largest company in the world. Since it has become easily profitable, it has now gone public and has the worlds highest market cap. Elon Musk is now 64 years old, and also the richest person to ever live in terms of raw purchasing power.

2040: the in-space manufacture of habitats continues to decline in price. The zero gravity environment coupled with finding the necessary resources in space has made making megastructures a relatively routine thing. A.I. has now hit a tipping point and plays a major role in everyday life. The price of precious metals has dropped tenfold, but the increases in efficiency, the in-space manufacture of mining equipment and even lower launch costs thanks to improvements in manufacturing technology means that it remains a highly profitable business. Soil is produced in space, habitats are produced in space. Now a few hundred thousand people live in space and make their living there. Space habitats are aesthetically pleasing and the enclosed environment allows for the creation of very unique living quarters. Because fuel in space is so cheap and mass produced, these in-space habitats can travel throughout the solar system, though many remain fixed due to their economic function. Most stations have the ability to transport themselves and act as large vessels for the sake of versatility.

The age of space colonization is upons, so much so that it is time to start looking at how you can shape your career to take advantage of this new economic development, mainly if you’re in the STEM area. So, you might go into manufacturing so that when we’re doing space manufacturing, you might land a much higher paying job.


New engines for the next space age, maybe.

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I hope some high ISP engines are developed soon since they’ll work so well with BFR’s LEO capabilities and mediocre beyond LEO capabilities if you aren’t considering refueling.


High ISP engines already exist. The issue isn’t with the engines but the amount of available power and ability to dump waste heat. To have relatively (~5N)high thrust high isp engines you need power sources capable of consistently providing hundreds of kWs to MWs with low specific mass. The thrust of these engines scales directly with the amperage and is the hurdle to cover to use electric engines for human spaceflight. Their trajectories are just too long in comparison to chemical engine trajectories.

I actually did a poster on this for my undergrad because I find low thrust trajectories really interesting problems. I ‘launched’ a fictional 50t chemical and electric propelled craft into LEO. For the electric low thrust craft I used somewhat reasonable scaled up power sources based on the SAFE-400 reactor and using it’s engines(can’t remember specs, maybe beefed up hall thrusters?) for TLI and orbit insertion. The electric craft took about 40 days and was able to insert 15t into LLO. In comparison, the chemical craft could only deliver 7.7t to LLO but with a flight time of 2-3 days. You double your payload at the cost of over 10x the flight time.

Interestingly enough, the same two craft were sent to Mars. The electric propelled craft still delivered 15t but the chemical craft could only deliver 4.6t. I can’t remember if this was just the intercept path or into actual mars orbit. I don’t remember the timing for this one. Could be comparable because at this point you would use electric to spiral out to the edge of the Earth gravity well and then transfer crew right before it leaves. At least that’s what I would do.


I would of thought the first and main priority in the next space age has to be getting some sort of gravity set up on these up coming space hotels in orbit around the earth. And on human crewed ships pushing further out to Mars and the asteroid field for mining operations. Spin gravity seems the obvious solution, both small scale inside a compartment where crew lay down and get spun for a while each day to receive some earth like gravity for their bones. And larger scale whole spinning sections.

Which is the real engineering problem private companies will have to overcome if they want their fair paying customers to have some comfort. I’m sure zero-g will be fun for a while each day, but humans will need to use a proper loo with some gravity and other personal things. I’m sure the novelty of using a zero-g toilet will wear off soon enough. And what about rich fare paying customers who are older, or have bowl, water works medical issues. Their money will be just as green as healthy paying customers, maybe more so if they are charged an extra premium.

How to create something the size of the London eye wheel ride and spin it at around 4 revolutions per minute to simulate 1g… I think that’s what it would take anyway. Please correctly me if wrong.

Climbing down or using a paying customer elevator to come down from the centre non spinning section into the spin gravity outer part is going to need a good supply of zero-g sick bags as I remember reading somewhere that the transition will be a little rough for most people. Especially crew who will need to be transitioning between the two sections quite fair bit each day looking after customers.

That process will take decades and decades to perfect I’m sure.


Yes, about 4 RPM.

The coriolis force would probably be nauseating at that radius though. You wouldn’t need a whole ring. You could use cables at a much larger radius.

But you may not need earth’s gravity at that point. It might be enough to weight clothing. We just lack good science on the topic right now. Our first Martians will be also be guinea pigs.