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A substantial revenue source will be the manufacture of new materials and products in free-flying, Zero-Gravity Modules surrounding the Space Island ring stations.
This capability will lead to stunning advances in electronics, pharmaceuticals and a myriad of other products, which can only be produced in the absence of gravity. The dozens of separate, proprietary suites in each Module will be leased to qualified manufacturers for a flat rate ($25 per cubic foot per day) and joint profit participation agreements (10% of gross revenues).
Metal Alloy Manufacturing
Alloys are produced by melting and mixing different substances into new combinations, then cooling and solidifying the resulting blend. Tests performed on several shuttle missions have proven that in the absence of gravity, uniquely strong metal alloys can be formed. Preliminary estimates made of this market indicate that it could generate revenues between $10 billion and $15 billion per year.
The current generation of semi-conductors is approaching a ceiling in speed and power. Experiments done on recent shuttle flights indicate that Micro Gravity semiconductor materials could produce chips as much as a thousand times more powerful than anything now available. The projected market for these new semiconductors could approach $35 to $40 billion annually as lessors of our Space Island facilities reach full production.
Micro Electro Mechanical Systems - (MEMS)
These newly discovered, microscopic devices will have a tremendous variety of uses in our society. But because of their minute size, the most useful MEMS can only be mass produced in orbit, where gravity cannot interfere with their formation. Early estimates are that this market could quickly exceed $10-$20 billion annually.
Over the last 20 years, experiments done onboard NASA's shuttles have proven that pharmaceuticals produced in space have purities far higher than any produced on Earth. The new medicines developed and manufactured on Space Island Stations and Geodes will completely change the way we treat illness. Lives could be saved and the pain and suffering which could be eliminated, could become our greatest gift to Mankind's future. This market is estimated to be in the $10 billion to $12 billion range.
As we've said, the technical aspects of these stations have been worked out in considerable detail over the last 20 years by engineers in and out of NASA. Exactly what profitable activities could take place aboard ET-stations has been given less study, and much of that was done by scientists. This area of potential commercial activities is the central focus of the Space Island Project. We have only touched on several of them here, but if you want more details or if you have other suggestions, please feel free to E-mail us your comments.
Explanation and advantages of Micro-gravity Manufacturing
Production of zero-gravity materials melting, mixing and solidifying mixtures of different weights in orbit without the interference of gravity holds tremendous potential. An example easy to visualize is mixing marbles of different weights in an aquarium of water, then freezing it.
On Earth the glass and metal marbles would sink to the bottom, some of the plastic ones might sink, float or end up somewhere in between, and the Styrofoam marbles would certainly end up floating on the top. In orbit all the marbles would stay mixed somewhere in the water.
In fact you could actually place them wherever you wanted them. The metal ones might be near the surface, the Styrofoam ones near the bottom or they could both end up side by side in the center of the tank.
If you froze the zero-gravity mixture into ice, brought it down to Earth (un-melted) and asked someone to duplicate it within an hour, they couldn't. Technically they could freeze a thin layer of ice at the bottom, place your "bottom" marbles down there, then freeze another thin layer, then position other marbles and so on, but it would take a very long time. Making a roomful of this material with millions of marbles would be impossible.)
The same thing happens when you melt and mix molecules of a heavy element like lead with a lighter one like titanium. There are literally millions of these "impossible", evenly mixed combinations which could be produced in the absence of gravity, some having dozens of components in different ratios.
Some of these mixtures - called alloys - will have properties of no commercial value, but researchers believe others will give us extremely powerful, 50-pound batteries able to drive electric cars a thousand miles between charges (they'd only need a pound or 2 of zero-gravity material, just as a 10-pound computer has only a few ounces of chips), strands of fabric able to make clothes stay the same temperature whether the surrounding air was 40 degrees below zero or 140 degrees above, computer chips a million times faster than today's, and thousands of other products only America could duplicate.
Zero-gravity crystals are another material with tremendous potential. Crystals on Earth form sort of the way you would form - or build - a house of cards if you had a thin layer of glue on each card's edge and if you imagined that gravity was both a breeze and was causing the table to vibrate slightly. It's pretty easy to see why, without gravity, you could build houses - or crystals of unlimited size.
But in orbit you could also use cards - or crystal elements - of different sizes or materials. Some cards could be transparent or translucent, while some could be thicker, thinner, larger or even of a different shape. The same holds true with different crystal elements. These zero-gravity crystals could be of tremendous use in our computer, auto and aviation industries, and dozens of others having nothing to do with space as it's used today.
This is the most startling use of large, commercial space stations. Based on work he's done with NASA, Dr. J. Milborne Jessup, others at Harvard and at Deaconess Hospital in Boston believe it will be possible to grow genetically matched replacement organs for humans in space. It turns out that in containers in Earth laboratories, elementary human cells replicate themselves up to the point where they change into the specialized cells of organs, them stop.
For some unknown reason no lab has been able to get them to specialize as they do in the womb. But in the womb-like conditions of zero-gravity, this change does occur.
They've tested it on the shuttle. This technology might start with organs like the liver and expand to hearts and lungs. It could eventually include eyes and perhaps even complete limbs, grown in orbit and brought back down for transplant into the patient. Since the genetic material could be taken from the affected individual, there would be no rejection problem as there is with today U.S. transplants.
Dr. Jessup and others are also convinced that certain types of cancer tumors would naturally deteriorate in micro-gravity because of the peculiar effects these conditions have on the body's immune system, although in this case the patient would actually have to spend time on a station. Other researchers in Houston believe that Earth-grown infectious diseases like pneumonia would never be able to develop an immunity to zero-gravity penicillin.
This is a huge problem today because the pharmaceutical industry has already developed and marketed 49 of the 50 possible variations of Earth-grown penicillin, and the pneumonia virus has eventually developed an immunity to each of them. The same thing is happening with most other antibiotics.
Orbital Construction of Satellites and other Structures
Today's satellites cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars because the finished assembly is designed to withstand the tremendous vibration of an unmanned launch without a single delicate component breaking or shaking loose, and because their small steering engines will never have a chance to be refueled.
Satellite builders must also construct extremely expensive vacuum test chambers to duplicate the conditions of space. How much do you think a car would cost if it were designed to operate 7 or 8 years with absolutely no chance to visit a service station, and if it were assembled underwater - in an environment radically different from were it would operate?
By building a satellite's main components on Earth, launching them to large ET-stations in the unmanned, cargo version of the Dual Launch Vehicle and having the crews test, assemble and retest the satellite in free-floating ET-hangers, their cost could drop to perhaps a quarter of today's. And of course if some component did fail in orbit or if it needed more fuel, help could be just a few minutes away - for a fee.
Once housing is available for several hundred construction workers in orbit, a wide range of enormous structures could be assembled up in orbit. They'd range from banks of solar cells a mile or two across which would convert the suns energy into electricity and use microwaves to beam that power to ET-stations in orbit or to receivers on Earth, to simple, flat reflectors made of tissue-thin sheets of aluminum which could bounce additional sunlight (and heat) down onto the Earth's surface.
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