Yesterday, John Ringo read this thread from Trent Telenko about the Ukraine and Spacelink and had a few words to say. Others, myself included, added more. If you haven’t read it, take a moment because it is a bit mind boggling to realize that in many respects, Elon Musk is the most powerful man in space from a military point of view.
I would expand on Trent’s ideas by pointing out that Elon also controls a variant of Project Thor, an idea discussed by the late Jerry Pournelle in his columns and in some small group discussions. Thor, as envisioned by Jerry, would be ‘flying crowbars’ in space. Simple iron rods fitted with a nosecone/seeker and guidance fins on the rear.
When needed, de-orbit so they come in over the needed area (Fulda Gap for instance), the seeker heads look for Russian tanks (which from the top do look very different from Allied tanks) and the crowbars maneuver to hit them at very high velocity. No more tanks. Iron because the things are going to vaporize and it is best if something that could potentially be ingested by our troops can also be handled/metabolized by the body.
I’m not recommending that Starlinks be used to take out individual tanks. I will note though that they could be used on launch facilities, command and control facilities, and even bunkers. In fact, it could be useful for Elon’s safety, and that of his family, to let the word go out that something like that is set up if anything happens. Might be bluff, might be real, not even Vladimir would want to find out for sure.
When you look at all he controls, and that some of that could potentially double as an ASAT or KEV, he truly is the most powerful person in space. And, he’s only going to get more powerful as his ventures expand.
One of the things I noted was that there have been calls for Elon to take over the Russian module and associated items as they pull out. I think building a replacement under contract to NASA would help hone his own operations while improving the ISS. I think going in as a partner would prove limiting.
I have no idea of what is on Elon’s drawing board for getting to Mars, but here are a few thoughts. Some of these may have originated at a dinner hosted by Jerry and Roberta Pournelle at a AAAS convention many years back. He invited myself, Fred Pohl, and two others who’s name I can’t remember (stupid lightning). While we touched on many topics, we also discussed Jerry’s plan for a private/private enterprise moon colony.
If SpaceX had been around back then, I think Jerry could have pulled it off. It doesn’t matter where you are going, you have to have the proper launch capability and you have to have a reasonable cost for the launch. Elon and SpaceX have both and are looking to bring the cost per pound to orbit down further.
Since doing almost anything to scale is going to require staging areas and such, a commercial space complex would seem a reasonable start. All-in-one stations like the ISS really aren’t optimal for quite a bit of research. Set up a manned operation with unmanned modules nearby, and you have a place where you can ramp up orbital operations, including assembly and even manufacturing, while earning at least some return from leasing out portions to researchers.
Second, there are a lot of dead satellites and debris up there. Come up with a way to collect the debris, and not only is your place in space safe, you should be able to make some money off it. Satellites have a lot of interesting materials in them, and some of it can be repurposed into new items/structures without the need to lift materials into space. A few legal issues would have to be explored, but between the dead satellites that are parked and abandoned, along with larger debris (boosters, panels, etc.) you could save a lot of expense in going elsewhere.
Now for the Boring Company. Any habitat on Mars is going to need to be underground. I suspect that is one reason for the Boring Company. Be a pity if some of that boring and sealing tech were leased to someone wanting a lunar base to use before the Mars missions. I will also note that lunar soil makes excellent concrete according to reports, which raises some interesting possibilities. Practice on the Moon, send robotic missions to Mars and there is a habitat ready and waiting for the first mission. Be a pity if there was an orbital component waiting as well.
It would also be a pity if the melting/smelting of the satellites/debris led to some ongoing resource extraction and manufacturing in orbit here or elsewhere. Not to mention the science fiction standbys of pharmaceutical R&D and manufacturing, and other profitable operations that could become viable.
Nor would it all be on Elon and his companies. Other companies will want to be a part of things, just as they did early on with NASA. A good chunk of change could have been saved on the Shuttle galley, as a company offered to design and build one at no charge to NASA, as long as their logo (small even) would be on it. Of course, NASA said no. I think we can be reasonably sure Elon’s not averse to partnerships, joint ventures, and other such smart things.
Years back, when I left working for NASA the second time, both John Ringo and David Weber said I could do a lot better. Things haven’t gone as planned, but who knows, someone might have need for a slightly singed writer and planner.
If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.