- how will we pay for space development and settlement? -


SpaceX is working diligently towards a very grand goal -- namely, to create a very cost-effective transport system to allow large numbers of private individuals to purchase tickets in order to move to and settle on Mars. The company's founder, Elon Musk, set this as the company's goal in order to create an amazing future while ensuring that humanity survives in the long-run.

All of this, of course will require a great deal of money. Elon is very wealthy but not wealthy enough to pay for the settlement of Mars. So, how will SpaceX be able to achieve such a great goal?

Currently, SpaceX is doing quite well by providing launches for customers. Over the last few decades, the United States has become less and less competitive when it comes to commercial launches. But SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Heavy rockets with their cost-effective manufacturing and reusable first stages is successfully competing for commercial launches and thereby bring the majority of that market back to the United States.

SpaceX is also providing very profitable launches for NASA by delivering cargo (and soon crew) to the International Space Station (ISS). This particular revenue sources is the primary reason why SpaceX is doing so well.

SpaceX currently has the most cost-effective rocket in the world. And they are already using it to develop a fascinating and potentially extremely profitable new revenue stream. They are now launching their own constellation of communications satellites at 60 satellites per launch. During the year 2020 they are expecting to launch 24 times thereby completing their constellation to the point where they can begin selling Internet-in-the-sky to end users perhaps including DirecTV-type and market transaction business. For a launching company, this will be a revolution because they will not be limited to earning money for each launch but will start getting monthly payments from customers. If successful, SpaceX might start earning multiple-fold amounts of money compared to any other launch company. Indeed, estimates are the SpaceX could be earning the equivalent of NASA's entire budget each year. Elon has indicated that the main purpose of this Starlink constellation is to provide the funding for the development of a Martian settlement. It's something that doesn't seem unreasonable.

In his initial Mars Colonial Transport (Starship) presentation, Elon described the types of people that would move to Mars. He said that they would be the intersection between the group who could afford to go and the group that wanted to go. The more Mars settlement is promoted and the more fun and meaningful it would be the larger the group of people wanting to go. The lower the price to go, the larger the group of people that would be able to afford to go.

From the affordability side of things, SpaceX's goal is to produce the first ever fully and rapidly reusable rocket such that the cost of launching it would mostly be just the cost of refueling it. This is like all of the other forms of powered transportation (e.g. cars, planes, trains, etc). The goal is to get the price of a ticket down to what typical house (say in California) could be sold for as people choose to move from Earth.

So, what sort of people would be those who would be moving to Mars?
   - They will have to have lived long enough to save up enough money to buy the tickets.
   - They probably will have to be freed up from childrearing responsibilities.
   - They probably will have to be freed up from occupational responsibilities.
Who are these people? Retirees fit the bill perfectly.

So, people's life savings will be the primary way that the transport of the passengers will be covered, and the life savings and Starlink income would be the primary ways that the settlers would be sustained on Mars.

It is the belief of the Space Development Network that orbital dynamics dictate that, in the early years, SpaceX's Starship will be used more for lunar development and settlement than Mars settlement. The reason for this is that a Starship could be used about 54 times cycling between then Earth and Moon than between Earth and Mars. For the Moon a Starship could launch, return, and launch again about every two weeks. But for Mars that process would have to wait until the Earth-Mars launch window opens up again which is about 26 months. For this reason, SpaceX will likely want to use its Starships to generate a lot of money establishing a lunar base and settlement before the less profitable approach of selling tickets for passengers to Mars.

SpaceX appears to be on an effective funding path using income from launches, Starlink, and ticket sales.

Next: Funding Earth Independence