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First Private Manned-Space Flight

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Resident space enterprise sceptic here - It looks like a private enterprise achievement but American taxpayers paid for it. If a business depends on taxpayer funded programs for it's commercial viability is truly Private Enterprise? It doesn't look like a big step from private contractors developing and supplying the components for NASA.

As is standard space enterprise PR, it is presented as a significant step towards The Moon and Mars - which offer no commercial opportunities and that look like money sinks for no real purpose. To me it looks like those programs are the commercial opportunities, not The Moon or Mars. Which leaves us without any commercially driven space activities beyond communications and ground sensing, neither requiring or even benefiting from putting astronauts in space.

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12 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

It looks like a private enterprise achievement but American taxpayers paid for it.

I'm not familiar with SpaceXs financing, but my understanding is that SpaceX treats NASA as a customer and so tax dollars only go to the company via market forces, as opposed to direct funding or subsidies etc... The USA have been paying the Russians through the nose for the same service. Whether that's a good use of tax money is debatable, but SpaceX are just delivering for a niche in the current market.

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12 hours ago, Prometheus said:

I'm not familiar with SpaceXs financing, but my understanding is that SpaceX treats NASA as a customer and so tax dollars only go to the company via market forces, as opposed to direct funding or subsidies etc... The USA have been paying the Russians through the nose for the same service. Whether that's a good use of tax money is debatable, but SpaceX are just delivering for a niche in the current market.

 

It can make space programs less wasteful of taxpayer funds but it doesn't produce anything. Upstream eddies in a flow of taxpayer funds that goes downhill is how it looks to me; there is no market for manned launches except taxpayer funded and I am not convinced that doing it more will create commercial opportunities. It comes back to colonising The Moon and Mars as objectives - and those are hype driven populism, not rational or reasonable objectives.

Possibly some extreme priced sightseeing might happen but that is servicing purely Earth based opportunities, a very limited market. It doesn't look like a foundation that serious self supporting space enterprise can be built upon. I see Mars colonies as a pointless waste and see bulk asteroid resources for the Earth market as the best opportunity there is (beyond near Earth purposes using Earth resources) -  and I would probably start with crude, minimally processed nickel-iron and even that will still be very, very difficult and ambitious goal. Making it economically viable will mean putting the least equipment into space, with the least human presence. Some work for astronauts may be necessary - but it will be an emergent outcome of making a mining/transport/delivery operation least cost, ie astronauts will be used to save costs, not be a underlying goal, that adds costs. Most enthusiasts have putting the most equipment and most people into space as a principle goals and I think that is putting cart before horse.

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On 6/16/2020 at 5:25 PM, Ken Fabian said:

If a business depends on taxpayer funded programs for it's commercial viability is truly Private Enterprise?

So if I only make fire hoses, which are only sold to fire departments, mine is not a private enterprise? What if the only customers of my office cleaning company are city government offices?

 

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2 hours ago, zapatos said:

So if I only make fire hoses, which are only sold to fire departments, mine is not a private enterprise? What if the only customers of my office cleaning company are city government offices?

 

That is a fair point. Although I think not all government contracting is equal; I think fire hose makers and cleaning companies would exist outside of government contracting but launch capabilities for astronauts would not. Whether it is good use of tax money, like Prometheus said, becomes the question. Cleaning offices and supplying fire hoses gives tangible and prosaic benefits.

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5 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

I think fire hose makers and cleaning companies would exist outside of government contracting but launch capabilities for astronauts would not.

Well, maybe not yet, but we are certainly on the way. One of the reasons NASA contracted with private launch companies is to spur the growth of private enterprise in space.

Quote

Most people in space are government employees. To be fair, a handful of space tourists have visited the orbiting complex, such as entrepreneur Dennis Tito and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. But these people paid large sums of money to Russian officials and were not employed by any company. Future private astronauts may be employees of a firm, sent up for 15 to 30 days for a specific set of experiments or other work that can only be done in space.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/elizabethhowell1/2019/11/28/nasa-gets-ready-for-the-private-astronaut-business/#34a1467958df

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Posted (edited)

Leaving aside the commercial opportunities from satellites - Earth based investors, Earth based customers, no (very expensive) astronauts - where are the private enterprise opportunities that subsidising space industry is intending to open up? It is still all (but for a tiny unsustainable part) payed for by taxpayers - and I am not seeing this emergence of private enterprise commercial opportunities from manned spaceflight apart from competing for government contracts.

The big contracts they appear to be tooling up to chase are manned Moon and Mars missions, largely justified as steps on the way to colonies. They are not chasing real commercial opportunities on Moon or Mars; there aren't any - they are money sinks. The companies involved are sources and promoters of Moon and Mars colony hype in a circular arrangement. I don't think that is a good foundation to build on.

Popularity of grand space dreams drives the taxpayer funding. The private industry part is built on chasing government contracts, with strong incentive not to look too closely at the assumptions built into those dreams. I really want to see some genuine commercial opportunities that can make space enterprises self sustaining, not  taxpayer funded grand space reality TV.

Edited by Ken Fabian

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