back in Earth Orbit

Articles by Donald F. Robertson

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These documents may be distributed at will, but only if they are not changed in any way, and only if the author's name, the copyright notice, the names of the journals they first appeared in, and a copy of this notice remain attached to each article. In addition, these articles may not be sold for money, or published for sale in any way, without the author's prior written permission.

Building the Space Station represents a unique point in human history. Even as it is finally getting started, few people - supporters and opponents alike - realize just how big and potentially important the project really is, or how difficult building it will be. Learning to assemble large and complex structures in the microgravity of space is fully comparable to humanity's invention of large-scale construction in stone. In building the Space Station, humanity is learning nothing less than how to build permanent structures in the microgravity environment that dominates the Universe.

Building a Place to Trade in Space: the San Francisco Model (an Acrobat file) most recently appeared in Spaceflight. Why would anyone invest the hundreds of millions, or billions, of dollars needed to develop routine transportation to space? After all, the only existing market each year is a few dozen communications, scientific, and military satellites. An unfortunate number of would-be entrepreneurial launch companies are finding themselves asking just that question. Humanity has never tackled a frontier as difficult a s the Solar System before, so we cannot know the answer to that question with any certainty. But, history does provide some clues, at least to what has worked in the past.  

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