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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day – space version

“Biotech firms, pharmaceutical manufacturers, the makers of semiconductors and other advanced materials – companies from across the entire industrials sector – will invent and produce their next breakthrough products that will benefit life on Earth in the microgravity factories of space.”

– Tom Vice – Sierra Space CEO, talking about the prospects of orbital manufacturing and R&D.

7 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – space version

  • thefat tomato

    Global Pharma is roughly $1,400 billion p.a.,somehow don’t think 0.3% is a funding trigger.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not know.

    Perhaps – perhaps not.

    The young will find out over the coming years.

  • Chester Draws

    I’ve been reading about this my entire life. It’s still many decades away, other than for niche applications.

    The cost of getting very large factories and their raw products, then assembling them, they getting them back safely, is going to be horrendous. Nothing can be entirely automated, so people will have to be trained and sent at irregular intervals, again at horrific expense. The idea that we can get a full size chip fab into space is dream territory.

    Since chemistry in space is identical to that on earth, and dealing with liquids is actually harder in space, there won’t be much liquid chemistry. There’s some bubble techniques that will have potential, for sure. Very niche though.

    If something can only be printed in space because it is too fragile, then it won’t last long on earth anyway. (I suspect that printers that work in liquids will be developed soon enough, and they will fill exactly the same niche, but much more easy to work with.)

    So count me sceptical.

    For decades boosters have been selling us the space/Moon/Mars dream. They all sound so convincing, but run up against absolutely immoveable objections.

  • Wasn’t this part of the justification for the ISS? To undertake science in microgravity that couldn’t be done on Earth? Apart from a lot of rather niche stuff has any revolutionary or ground breaking technology been developed through the ISS program that couldn’t be done on Earth?

    If so, then positing great advancements is a bit like cheerleading..all well and good, but without any foundation.

    What many of us really want is ground-breaking exploration, which is why SpaceX Starship (for all its hyperbole) is exiting.

    Stuff like Artemis, where we seem to be channelling the Apollo programme of 50 years ago for reasons of diversity are wasted opportunities.

  • On December 14th 2022, it will be 50 years since man abandoned the moon and essentially restricted manned space flight to low Earth orbit and nothing else.

    That’s some shitty decisions right there.

  • llamas

    @ John Galt – well, I beg to differ. Talk of ‘abandoning’ the moon is merely an emotional appeal which masks the fact that the manned moon expeditions, while technologically astounding and my hat’s off to them, were little more that a vast vanity-project-cum-jobs-program. The moon has very little to offer us in any case, and is so remote and difficult to get to as to be worthless.

    Same with all these wonderful promises of the amazing advances in science that will be made in microgravity – but which all seem to be absolutely anchored to the principle of manned space flight. But taking along the pitiful, weak husks that is Us on journeys into space makes everything 1,000 times more-costly, more-complex and more-risky than it needs to be – for what? For vanity, nothing more. Anything a human can do in space, a remotely-operated system can do at a fraction of the cost, complexity and risk, and maybe better as well – but no, we are still married to the Buck Rogers romance of intrepid astronauts, and we will continue to waste vast sums fot trivial returns until we can rid ourselves of that romantic delusion.




  • Tim

    The cost of getting very large factories and their raw products, then assembling them, they getting them back safely, is going to be horrendous.

    Up until now that statement would be essentially correct; however in the soon to be era of Superheavy/Starship fully reusable launches orders of magnitude lower costs I would disagree. We are talking about the equivalent of the Saturn V moon rocket level payloads to orbit in a fully reusable system (if it works).