reflections of a pragmatic optimist, lover of freedom

Category: Frontiers (Page 1 of 16)

SN9 Test Coming Soon?

In the wake of the tremendously exciting SN8 test last month, Starship SN9 is on the pad and it’s looking like we may see a static fire test as early as today (LabPadre’s Launch Pad Cam has live coverage) and a 12.5km altitude test and landing attempt, with that launch possibly as early as Friday.

SN10 meanwhile received its nosecone and is waiting in the wings to be next up, with SN11 also under construction and not that far behind.

SpaceX’s rapid-iteration process has been truly impressive and inspiring to behold, particularly with regard to Starship prototyping and testing. Such a stark contrast to the customarily slow pace of NASA-contractor partnerships. It gives me greatly enjoyed reason to hope that we’ll see successful colonization of other worlds in the near future.

Update: Looks like we got an SN9 test-fire! I wonder if the brief duration was as planned. (This side-by-side comparison seems to indicate comparable duration to SN8 Static Fire #3, so my guess is that all went as intended.) Looking forward to further developments.

Oceans First, Space Next?

Contemplating the promised benefits of “seasteading” usually leaves me hung up on seemingly hard unsolved problems such as defense, but I have to admit the arguably outlandish idea offers more immediate practical potential for competitive governance and decentralization in support of individual sovereignty than colonizing much more hostile, distant, and hard- and expensive-to-reach worlds beyond Earth. This video makes an interesting pitch worth considering, that proposes development of seasteads as both a worthwhile end in itself and a potentially helpful equatorial stepping stone on our way to the heavens and colonizing [and perhaps eventually seasteading on] other worlds.

Seasteading does appear to offer a key advantage over territory-based governance: the potential for rapid reconfigurability. If you don’t like your land-based government, you can usually move elsewhere, but doing so is a high-inertia process that may involve selling your home, buying or renting another, possibly needing to apply to change citizenship, and moving your possessions a long distance. This inertia and the time and costs involved sets a high threshold for what people are willing to put up with, inhibiting salutary feedback loops and giving power to incrementalism. In theory at least, seasteaders can move and establish new voluntary associations at will and with much greater ease than people with land-based ties. There’s enough in that to make the idea worth giving further thought, and it will probably make a good topic to delve into in a future episode of The No Fear Pioneer. In seeking new frontiers to advance to, it certainly makes sense to consider as wide a variety of viable possibilities as we reasonably can.

Starship: The Next Generation?

A happy discovery on the “Terran Space Academy” YouTube channel I just stumbled upon and subscribed to: “Starship the Next Generation” offers some concrete predictions and calculations regarding a possible lunar-launched, next-generation SpaceX Starship. Titanium construction (locally sourced) + larger volume + weak lunar gravity would mean much better payload to propellant ratio to Mars, and elimination of the need to add fuel in-orbit before departure as will be necessary when launching from Earth. This isn’t official info from SpaceX, and there’s some estimating by proportions and specs of existing hydrolox engines, but the calculations and possible uses of materials suggested offer some interesting food for thought.

Of particular interest: the prospect of moving payload from 10.5% of weight (in the currently prototyped “Generation One” Starships designed to launch from Earth) to closer to 23% (in the imagined, much larger but titanium-based “Generation Two” Starships designed to launch from the Moon), with payload capacity growing substantially from 150t to approximately 1,385t (a 9x increase!). Propellant would meanwhile drop from 84% of launch mass to around 75%.

Among the tech info, I enjoyed this cultural insight: “Here in space, you will be judged not by what you have but by what you can do — the knowledge you have, the skills you contribute, will determine your status here.”

I hope and expect that will prove largely true. Among the many potential benefits of pursuing life on new frontiers, the opportunity to build a culture of practical competence is one of the more exciting to me.

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