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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#175 - In Flowers Through Space

This week we talk with e Scott Lindner and Adam Ahuja about space-themed music, after we talk about In-Space Manufacturing and Freeman Dyson

It's not going to be just humans colonizing space, it's going to be life moving out from the Earth, moving it into its kingdom. And the kingdom of life, of course, is going to be the universe.

Freeman John Dyson (15 December 1923 – 28 February 2020)

Freeman John Dyson

At the age of four, he tried to calculate the number of atoms in the Sun

Developed analytical methods for calculating the ideal density for bomber formations to help the Royal Air Force bomb German targets during World War II.

While Trinity Cambridge he garnered this reputation: "I have the sense that when consensus is forming like ice hardening on a lake, Dyson will do his best to chip at the ice", Steven Weinberg

Moved to America in 1947 and instantly made friends with a young Richard Feynman at Cornell Then returned to Birmingham Uni for a bit

But worked on Feynman Diagrams and basically laid the groundwork to show how amazing they were and letting other physicists including Oppenheimer realise that Feynman was a bang-out. They were also known as Dyson Graphs because his version was so much easier to understand.

Became a US citizen after returning to Cornell and then Princeton, where he basically became a lifelong prof, for Proving Oppenheimer wrong.

He worked on the nuclear rocket Orion in the 60s, He hoped it would put men on Mars by 1965, Saturn by 1970. but essentially helped scupper it by working on and approving the partial test ban on nukes and therefore ending the project.

he proved rigorously that the Pauli exclusion principle is what prevents two stacked wood blocks from coalescing into a single piece

He did loads of stuff on Maths, loads of climate things for the mysterious group JASON. And then went on to Do things for Space Studies Institute (O’Neills Club) and dalliance with all sorts of other things "ESP is real... but cannot be tested with the clumsy tools of science" and also pretty controversial views on Climate Science. Dyson will do his best to chip at the ice has extra irony here

"I think it's almost true without exception if you want to win a Nobel Prize, you should have a long attention span, get hold of some deep and important problem and stay with it for ten years. That wasn't my style."

Dyson tree, a genetically engineered plant capable of growing on a comet with hollow spaces filled with a breathable atmosphere, thus providing self-sustaining habitats for humanity in the outer Solar System. Interesting I saw a paper about the first protein found in a comet that could have a practical use.

He proposed that it isn’t unrealistic to find frozen fish floating around jupiter?

Dyson's eternal intelligence: an immortal group of intelligent beings could escape the prospect of heat death by extending time to infinity while expending only a finite amount of energy. AKA Dyson scenario

He may have averted the use of Nuclear Weapons in Vietnam?

Overall a legend with lots of interesting things to say.

Happy Birthday - 1937 – Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963 First Woman in space and still the one and only solo female space fairer. The Vostok 6 capsule was actually shown in the Cosmonauts Science Museum exhibition from 2016. Her daughter Elena Andrianovna Nikolaeva-Tereshkova the first person with both a mother and father who had travelled into space. Andriyan Grigoryevich Nikolayev was a Soviet cosmonaut. In 1962, aboard Vostok 3, he became the third Soviet cosmonaut to fly into space

50th Anniversary of Black Arrow number 2, the first British rocket to achieve a suborbital flight.

Space Word of the Week.

In-Space Manufacturing!


Just a little over 50 years ago Georgi Shonin and Valeri Kubasov were an unhappy crew, they were travelling in space in their Soyuz 6 capsule, having failed to video Soyuz 7 and 8 dock, the systems had not worked reflecting that the Americans had managed to land on the moon, the Russians had let a lead int he space race evaporate. But they were about to do something significant but almost totally catastrophic.

Valeri reached for some space welding equipment, to carry on an experiment trying out various welding techniques and how space may affect the welding process. During this weld which many see now as the first-ever piece of Space Manufacturing, he almost burnt a hole in the ships hull, which would have depressurised the capsule with probably fatal consequences. However, they had made a monumental leap in mankind’s history, they had made something in space.

Well if Soyuz was the first workshop, then Skylab was the first Factory. In 1973 Skylab, at least 4 working days were devoted to space manufacturing, Welding, using a furnace, a growing crystals, molten metal processing; photographing the behavior of ignited materials in zero-gravity;

Space Studies Institute, O’Neill’s future of humanity’s space club, took manufacturing very seriously and started having a biannual conference from 1977 onwards. ESA also pioneered Spacelab to fly on the shuttle which eventually became the basis of many of the modules now in use on the ISS especially Columbus where The Material Science Laboratory Electromagnetic Levitator (MSL-EML) used to study the melting and solidification properties of various materials and the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) is used to study the behaviour of liquids in microgravity.

There are several Commercial ventures on the ISS including

Made In Space: Manufacturing ZBLAN fibre optic cable and has a 3D printer onboard the ISS. Possibly the first commercial manufacturer in Space. With their Archinaut that would enable in-space production and assembly of the backbone structures for large telescopes, repair, augmentation, or repurposing of existing spacecraft, and robotic assembly of new space stations. MIS is currently in ground testing of a central spar onto which rolled up solar arrays can be extended and locked into place. The flight demonstration is expected in 2022, launched on an Electron rocket.

Tethers Unlimited: HAs a Refabricator aboard the ISS, which is intended to recycle plastic for use in space additive manufacturing in the form of filament for 3d printer, TUI is also developing key technologies to enable a range of in-space services, including in-space servicing and refuelling of satellites, in-space manufacturing of satellite components, in-space assembly of space systems,

But Why Build Things in Space?

Space offers unique environments that can allow for certain industrial processes that cannot be done on Earth.

If you want large infrastructure in Space, the cost of lifting materials into orbit from Earth is very expensive. Currently About £2500 per KG However, Raw materials could be lifted to orbit from other bodies within the solar system and processed at a lower expense

Potentially hazardous processes can be performed in space with minimal risk to the environment of the Earth or other planets.

What is stopping us at the moment?

In a sentence transition low scale manufacturing at high prices, to higher volumes at lower prices

The cost of getting stuff up there, currently best price is about £2500 on a Falcon 9, but that is set to change Elon boasting that is Starship is so efficient he can get it down to about £250 which is cheaper than the estimated cost of a Space Elevator!! So with this maybe we will see a price point that will enable governments to spend the enormous capital required to get the ball rolling. ie heavy capitalization costs of assembling the mining and manufacturing facilities once paid, maybe production can be economically profitable for it to be self-sustaining, which will make it much more attractive to entrepreneurs

What is special about the environment?

There are quite a few significant differences between the properties of materials in made in space compared to Earth.

Microgravity environment:

Control of convection in liquids or gasses, and the elimination of sedimentation.

Diffusion, allows otherwise immiscible materials to be intermixed.

Enhanced growth of larger, higher-quality crystals in solution.

Ultraclean vacuum of space:

The creation of very pure materials and objects.

vapour deposition, can be used to as a precise 3d printing and build up materials layer by layer, free from defects.

Surface tension

Causes liquids in microgravity to form perfectly round spheres, great for creating consistent spherical components, not so great for pumping liquids around.

Extremes of heat and cold.

Sunlight can be focused to concentrate enough heat to melt the materials,

Perpetual shade close to absolute zero.

The temperature gradient can be exploited to produce strong, glassy materials.


Material Processing: On earth mining and purifying materials required vast, complex and heavy machinery. When you think of mining you think, heavy and large.

The idea is to find raw materials in space but do you find ways of shipping these raw materials around the solar system or do you build the factories at the source

Shipping: Solar sails, mass drivers, Ion Thrusters, Electric Sails, Zubrin Drive. The amazing giant jelly fish Dama


Asteroids, the moon, space junk

Power Source: Solar, Nuclear, Hydrogen

One proposed method of purifying asteroid materials is through the use of carbon monoxide (CO). Heating the material to 500 °F (260 °C) and exposing it to CO causes the metals to form gaseous carbonyls. This vapour can then be distilled to separate out the metal components, and the CO can then be recovered by another heating cycle. Thus an automated ship can scrape up loose surface materials from, say, the relatively nearby 4660 Nereus (in delta-v terms), process the ore using solar heating and CO, and eventually return with a load of almost pure metal. The economics of this process can potentially allow the material to be extracted at one-twentieth the cost of launching from Earth, but it would require a two-year round trip to return any mined ore

Oxygen for workers? oxygen can be liberated from the lunar regolith by heating it to massive temperatures which releases oxygen, not very efficient, or Hydrogen gas can also be used to extract oxygen

Basically you can see a ready source of Volatiles is pretty handy.

Low hanging fruit products

There are thought to be a number of useful products that can potentially be manufactured in space and result in an economic benefit. early candidates:

Growth of protein crystals

Improved semiconductor wafers

Micro-encapsulation (fine droplets coated in a shell)

Rock is the simplest product, and at minimum is useful for radiation shielding. It can also be subsequently processed to extract elements for various uses.

Water from lunar sources, Near Earth Asteroids or Martian moons is thought to be relatively cheap and simple to extract, and gives adequate performance for many manufacturing and material shipping purposes. Separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen can be easily performed in small scale, but some scientists [3] believe that this will not be performed on any large scale initially due to the large quantity of equipment and electrical energy needed to split water and liquify the resultant gases. Water used in steam rockets gives a specific impulse of about 190 seconds[citation needed]; less than half that of hydrogen/oxygen, but this is adequate for delta-v's that are found between Mars and Earth[citation needed]. Water is useful as a radiation shield and in many chemical processes.

Ceramics made from lunar or asteroid soil can be employed for a variety of manufacturing purposes.[citation needed] These uses include various thermal and electrical insulators, such as heat shields for payloads being delivered to the Earth's surface.

Metals can be used to assemble a variety of useful products, including sealed containers (such as tanks and pipes), mirrors for focusing sunlight, and thermal radiators. The use of metals for electrical devices would require insulators for the wires, so a flexible insulating material such as plastic or fiberglass will be needed.

A notable output of space manufacturing is expected to be solar panels. Expansive solar energy arrays can be constructed and assembled in space. As the structure does not need to support the loads that would be experienced on Earth, huge arrays can be assembled out of proportionately smaller amounts of material. The generated energy can then be used to power manufacturing facilities, habitats, spacecraft, lunar bases, and even beamed down to collectors on the Earth with microwaves.

Other possibilities for space manufacturing include propellants for spacecraft, some repair parts for spacecraft and space habitats, and, of course, larger factories.[12] Ultimately, space manufacturing facilities can hypothetically become nearly self-sustaining, requiring only minimal imports from the Earth. The microgravity environment allows for new possibilities in construction on a massive scale, including megascale engineering. These future projects might potentially assemble space elevators, massive solar array farms, very high capacity spacecraft, and rotating habitats capable of sustaining populations of tens of thousands of people in Earth-like conditions.

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