Monday, April 02, 2018

What George Friedman's 2009 Book "The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the Next Century" Said About Space

         By Chuck Black

Those who believed as recently as the dawn of our current century, that our future in space belonged to national and international civilian space agencies like NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) weren't just wrong in hindsight.

They were also ignoring knowledgeable, contemporary pundits who saw the future and urged us to prepare for it.

For example, the 2009 book by George Friedman, "The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century," predicted a great many jarring changes in the types of space activities which would likely be undertaken over the next decades. They included:
  • The lessening importance of national and international space agencies in favor of a growing series of extremely "innovative," private sector providers. 
Graphic c/o
The most favored of those private sector providers could also be fed useful intellectual property (IP) and trade secrets developed through other government departments, which could then be commercialized faster, at lower cost and with less bureaucratic oversight than under traditional methodologies. 
This sort of process would be particularity useful to rocketry start-ups like Hawthorne CA based SpaceX (founded in 2002), which wasn't really even trying to reinvent the wheel, but was only attempting to rediscover technologies and techniques originally developed (and then mostly forgotten) by US rocket scientists in the 1950's and 60's.
Once developed, the government would then be able to buy back the new services at a lower price than using traditional procurement methodologies (think "commercial off-the-shelf," instead of "cost plus" contracts) and serve as a reference site and anchor customer for additional, follow-on sales. As outlined in the October 24th, 2017 Wired post, "SpaceX Keeps Lining up Covert Military Launches," SpaceX has been more than moderately successful in this area.
Early funding could be provided through military programs such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) or venture funds with vague, but tangible connections to the US deep state such as CIA funded, Arlington, VA based In-Q-Tel, which was founded in 1999 by Norman Augustine, the chair of both the 1990 Advisory Committee on the Future of the United States Space Program and the 2009 Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee.
Later program funding, especially for technologies with obvious commercial applications (such as Earth imaging, a logical development from 1960's and 1970's spy-satellites) would come from the commercial markets.
These changes, although there would be definite civilian applications (anyone looking to "colonize Mars," perhaps?), would be designed specifically to encourage the creation of new space focused players capable of developing a range of new technologies useful to the military, but independent of government oversight. 
  • The increasing importance of the high frontier for stationing and operating technology related to military command, control and communications (think next generation Earth imaging, real time communications and global positioning satellites) along with a growing ancillary need to defend those assets against any attack, surprise or otherwise.
According to Friedman, the first space based, large scale (likely "defensive") weaponry, could be secretly placed into orbit as early as the 2030s.
The "high ground permits visibility, and here the high ground is space - an area in which reconnaissance platforms can see the battlefield on a continuous, global basis."
"Global war will therefore become space war." 
Eventually, according to Friedman, "weapons will be fired from space to the Earth."
  • The replacement of large and complex communications and Earth imaging satellites positioned in geostationary orbits with far smaller and more easily replaceable constellations of satellites positioned mostly in low (LEO) and medium (MEO) Earth orbits.
This would facilitate replacement (in case of war or operational failure) and keep down replacement costs. 
As outlined in the  June 29th, 2017 Bliley Technologies post, "5 FAQs About New Space LEO Satellite Constellations," there were also a variety of commercial reasons to encourage the growth of LEO satellite constellations. 
The ability of "NewSpace" launch providers to replaced damaged or destroyed will be encouraged and funded appropriately. 
Eventually, the development of quickly built space launchers such as the New Zealand and Huntington Beach CA based Rocket Lab (incorporated in 2006) will allow replacement satellites to be launched as needed to replace losses. Friedman predicts this capability as being operational by the 2040's. 
  • Support for sensors which could be used by both space mining companies like Mountain View CA based Deep Space Industries and Redmond WA based Planetary Resources to create and commercialize practical Earth and space imaging technologies for both space mining and the tracking of more mundane Earth based resources.

Friedman founded Stratfor, a private intelligence publishing and consulting firm in 1996 and led it until May, 2015. He's currently the founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures, a new online publication that analyzes and forecasts the course of global events.

Both the websites and his book are well worth taking a look at.
Editors Note: As outlined in the April 10th, 2018 SpaceQ post, "The Department of Defence Unveils $1.6 Billion IDEeS Program," Canada is also involved in using defence funds and programs to help jump-start specific space projects for their military applications. 
The post discussed the $1.6Bln CDN Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEeS) program, which included funding opportunities for the private sector in the space domain.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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