Why this space expert thinks that “hundreds of thousands of humans” could live in space by 2050


Space attorney Robert Jacobson, former director of the Space Angels Network and founding member of consultancy firm Space Advisors, has spent the past decade advising investors and entrepreneurs on the potential of “space” as a. that field of activity.

Last week I was able to sit down with Jacobson by phone to discuss his new book – The space is open for businessand why he thinks the next 30 years could be a renaissance for space companies and a great opportunity for investors looking to get on the ground floor of the space business.

Image source: Getty Images.

Things are moving faster than you think

It’s only been a little over a decade since the first SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral (and Jacobson was there to witness it!) And just under a decade since SpaceX carried out its first mission. refueling to the International Space Station. . Meanwhile, SpaceX – one of the first promising space start-ups spotted by Jacobson and his crew – has grown into a true space company and a worthy rival to incumbent US space entrepreneur United Launch Alliance.

As quickly as this change has happened, you might be shocked to learn how much more could change if the space industry has just a little more time to grow. In all of recorded history, for example, fewer than 600 humans have ever left Earth’s atmosphere, Jacobson says. But by 2050, it is possible that we may start to see “hundreds”, then “thousands” and finally “hundreds of thousands” of people not only visiting space, but living and working there.

What it will take

Princeton professor and space activist Dr Gerard K. O’Neill presented the roadmap to getting there in his founding work The high frontier, explains Jacobson, describing how a series of large space stations equipped with machines to create artificial gravity could be placed at “Lagrange points” between the Earth and the Moon. Because humans evolved to live in gravity, and the physical deterioration of astronauts living aboard the International Space Station is well documented, it is believed that large space stations providing artificial gravity would be superior to lunar colonies in supporting large populations in space.

Cost and capacity (i.e. payload) have always been the biggest hurdles in building such stations, of course. But Jacobson believes the latest generation of heavy-lift rockets, and SpaceX’s Starship in particular, could be the key to solving both of these issues.

Elon Musk estimated the cost of operating the rocket at just $ 2 million per flight, and “Starship is designed to carry 100 to 150 metric tons,” Jacobson notes, “and could perform multiple flights per day. when Starship becomes operational, evolving space activities become more likely to occur. “

Consider that the current International Space Station weighs just over 400 metric tons and required about 40 total rocket launches to be assembled – mostly space shuttle launches costing $ 1 billion and more. So much for a ton, Starship has the potential to reduce the number of flights required by 90% – and allow the construction of even larger space stations, at a significantly reduced cost.

As for populating these stations with people, the “hundreds of thousands” of inhabitants may seem overkill today, as every eye turns to NASA for its once or twice a year launches of three or four astronauts at a time. . But consider that Starship is designed to carry up to 100 passengers at a time and to be launched multiple times per day. One hundred passengers multiplied by three launches per day multiplied by 365 days per year means that – in theory at least – “a single spacecraft dedicated to orbital operations could put more than 100,000 people into space in any given year” .

And SpaceX’s Musk expects Starship to be ready for human spaceflight as early as 2023.

Several paths to space (investment)

Of course, SpaceX and Starship can’t do this job on their own – and they’re not the only companies to follow in space. During our discussion, Jacobson highlighted two other companies that investors need to keep their eyes on.

Spire Global is one of them. The satellite company analyzes data from its private constellation of 100 Earth observation satellites to provide marine and aviation industry customers with information and weather forecasts, to monitor vessel traffic, optimize air traffic routes and monitor global warming trends. Spire plans to go public in a SPAC IPO sponsored by NavSight Fund (NYSE: NSH) this summer.

Redwire Space is another. The self-proclaimed “Preeminent Space Infrastructure Developer” specializes in technologies that will be essential to building 21st century space stations, including “In-Orbit Maintenance, Assembly and Manufacturing (OSAM) capabilities” and additive manufacturing (3D printing) of parts for “robotic assembly” in space. This company is also due to go public soon, after the company SPAC Genesis Park (NYSE: GNPK) acquires it in Q2 2021.

Meanwhile, in the meantime, Jacobson urges investors to keep an eye on the “small space” and in particular on small rocket launchers like Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit. While they might not be as sexy as Starship and its multitone payloads, Jacobson believes there is still room in space for small rocket launchers performing functions such as sending out small satellites in specific orbits, replacing dead satellites when they fall from larger constellations and performing. Launch missions “on demand” for clients such as the US military.

Space, in short, is much larger than SpaceX’s stock alone – and it’s finally open for business.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are motley! Questioning an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.


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