Space colonization will only be viable if we are able to launch stuff into outer space at reasonable cost. Currently spaceflight depends on chemical rockets to reach orbit. However, chemical rockets suffer from a severe bottleneck. Continue reading Laser beam propulsion
Space colonization requires the launch of spaceships from Earth, even if we would use asteroidal resources as much as possible. Humans should be launched from Earth anyway, and at this moment there is no equipment in space which can be used to mine asteroids.
Consequently a space launch facility will be required. The question then where this facility should be located. In our manifesto one can read:
Theoretically those platforms can be everywhere on the planet, even at sea, but is preferable to launch rockets somewhere near the equator. From a practical perspective we should locate our launch site should be at some distance away from populated areas.
Additionally a launch facility should be located in a politically stable country. Further we suggested the Atacama desert in Northern Chile as a suitable location. But as a commenter rightly noticed, one needs to launch spacecraft in eastern direction. In this case this means that spaceships will be launched over Bolivia and Brazil. and problems might arise as these countries might be unwilling to give permission for this.
Alternatively, we could launch spaceships from Northern Queensland (above the 20º southern width). This location is even closer to the equator than Northern Chile, and has the benefit that rockets launched in eastern direction, will fly over sea rather than over land. (For comparison Kennedy Space Center is located at 28º northern width.) Importantly, there is no reason to fear for political instability in Australia.
At this moment we should keep open the choice for a certain location.
See also: Manifesto
We should not forget to discuss this very important issue. In order to get anywhere in space we need to launch spacecrafts in the first place. So we need a launch platform. Theoretically those platforms can be everywhere on the planet, even at sea, but is preferable to launch rockets somewhere near the equator. From a practical perspective we should locate our launch site should be at some distance away from populated areas. For these reason we believe that Northern Chile (Norte Grande) is an ideal location, save for the benefits of its location it also takes into account that Chile is politically a stable country.
In line with the previous section, we prefer traditional rockets over all proposed but speculative launch systems. Although we recognize the drawbacks of rockets, the fact remains that chemical rockets at least work. While all other proposed alternative launch systems are never tested at full-scale. We can invest many millions of dollars in investigating, for instance, the use of rail gun, but if in the end this system does not work as expected we will lose all our credibility as an organization. In is already difficult to promote space colonization, the only way to convince the mass public is by building an actual space habitat. But wasting our money with speculative launch systems, we are doing the space movement more harm than good.
From both technical and environmental reasons, we believe that hydrogen fueled rockets are the best choice. Technical advantage is that hydrogen rockets has the best efficiency and performance (this why the Space Shuttle used hydrogen fueled engines), and the environmental benefit is that hydrogen rocket only produce water as exhaust. Many other rockets are powered by hydrazine which as fuel is very poisonous and it exhaust gasses are also not very friendly for our already vulnerable atmosphere.
How do want to get the needed hydrogen and oxygen? Very simple, electrolysis of water. Our plan is to install a large number of solar arrays in the Atacama desert, the electricity they generate will be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas. We realize that the Atacama desert is the driest in the world, but through the use of solar desalination it is possible to produce rocket fuel from sea water.
It is important to note that we can already in this phase generate revenue. By offering some of our launch capacity to third parties. This is central to our ideas of incremental funding, which we will explain in a later section.
See also: Launch facility location options