Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Space Infrastructure: A Comparative Analysis

By now I hope it's obvious that I'm a huge commercial space advocate. I'm all about the economic impact of space exploration and development and how we can turn America into a space faring nation with space as a significant economic foundation.

The problem is no one has ever invested into the commercial space infrastructure. Honestly, that's the only thing I want the government to do, just like they did in 1862 with the Pacific Railway Act, where they loaned private business the funds necessary to build the transcontinental railroad. The businesses built the infrastructure, they paid the govt. back, and the govt. got free use of the system while the private industry made a boat load of cash using it commercially. Space is no different, but we treat it as if it is.

Here's a comparison: The average subsidy per mile of track laid by the Union and Central Pacific companies was $32,000 a mile. I'm taking a gross average here, because the breakdown was $16,000 per mile for easy grade, $32,000 for high plains and $48,000 in the mountains. The Union Pacific laid 1,087 miles of track and the Central Pacific laid 690 miles of track. That's 1,777 miles of track at roughly $32,000 a mile. That gives a total of $56,864,000 in 1864 dollars. What cost $56,864,000 in 1864 would cost $774,289,258 in 2008 as adjusted for inflation. $774 million.

Now look at land. Land has pristine value, and even more so after the railroads were complete. Entire modern day cities like Denver would not exist were it not for the railroad. From 1850-1871, the railroads received more than 175 million acres of public land - an area more than one tenth of the whole United States and larger than Texas. What do you think the cost per acre was back then...the value? In some parts of the country you could find land at $10 an acre, like rural Colorado, but in other parts it would be more expensive.

So let's say $100 per acre as an average considering the immediate jump in value the railway would give the land. It's not that much of a jump in logic. Even if the land started at $10 an acre, the fact that the Intercontinental Railroad now existed on that land would instantly increase its value significantly. So that's $17.5 billion in 1864 land value. Adjusted into 2008 dollars we're sitting at roughly $238,288,935,357 in 2008.

So what do we have? $774 million in loans and $238 billion in land. The land value dwarfs the loan value, but to be precise, we're sitting at $239,063,224,615 in total cost to set up the railway infrastructure. $239 billion!!!

$239 billion in loans to space based companies would build fuel depots, better launch systems, better spacecraft, destinations like orbiting hotels, a new space station, a Moon Base, etc. If we were capable of doing this back then, why the hell aren't we capable of doing the same thing now for the establishment of the space infrastructure?


Anonymous said...

It's because government officials found a way to line their own pocketbooks by 'helping' the railroads.

Find a way for more than just a few politicians to make money by supporting a commercial space infrastructure and the money will flow in.

Ok. I'm jaded by the politics of it all.

David (Space enthusiast since Armstong set foot on the moon)

Norman Copeland said...

It makes it really hard sitting here doing the sums, I'm glad that I read Patrick Tilly's 'The Amtrak wars' when the series was first written {6 books}, I read them in about 15 days and don't really need much other conspiracy theory or prophecy books, but, it's difficult justifying what my race is doing with my life's future as a human.

Thats my lot for the day thanks.

Anonymous said...

David speaks truth Doug, hafta grease some palms here.

Gotta be real.

Marcel F. Williams said...

But the government didn't help to develop the transcontinental railroad as an continental exploratory program-- it was a settlement and business program. NASA's manned space program is an exploratory program that I wish was predominantly a space settlement and space commercialization and industrialization program.

What NASA needs to do, IMO, is to focus on building bases on the Moon and Mars, artificial gravity space stations at LEO, L1, L2, L4, L5 and Mars orbit and developing light sail technologies to access small asteroids for hydrocarbons, mass shielding, and oxygen and water needed to refuel space vehicles and space stations. Being independent of terrestrial resources is essential for human and industrial expansion into the rest of the solar system.

And NASA needs to cooperate with private industry to develop vehicles that will allow easier, cheaper and safer human access to orbit for both NASA and private industry.

It sounds so simple:-)

Douglas Mallette said...

Okay, time to reply to my peeps...

Anon and dad2059 - I don't really care about that. Why? Because it's going to happen no matter what, by this guy or the next guy or the next guy. Doesn't matter. What DID matter was the obvious economic boom that occurred because of the action. That is undeniable.

No need to grease palms. Besides, that's a bit harder to do these days since the public is actually waking up. I think DC is under the biggest microscope ever right now, as all governments are. The key thing here is public awareness, acceptance and then action about the importance of space...which is where we all come in.

Marcel - Ah, I agree. I am all about settlement, not visitation. This is why I advocate for the Moon first, because that's the most realistic to settle, the best close location for advanced research beyond LEO, and the closest option for a real tourism industry beyond LEO.

Norman Copeland said...

Finance differs.

Planet to planet.

Norman Copeland said...

The space news media group and it's subsideries and has been bought from the online media group toptenreviews.

Perhaps it has been a productive move for the team at who actually could utilise more financial clout bringing's online media assembly to live televised interviews in space of astronaught's and rockets on maneuovers...

It's something some of us viewers have been asking for for quite awhile, perhaps they've got their money to do the job we need!!!

Good luck