The Never-Ending Frontier
The Never Ending Frontier is the fourth book and culminates Beyond the Saga of Rocket Science by taking you on a journey from the present to the future. It begins by explaining how the former Soviet Union steadily matured its Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine–Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), civilian launch vehicles, and tactical missiles across a broad front to reach approximate parity with the United States by the late 1980s. But then chaos ensued with the Soviet empire’s collapse in late 1991. Former Soviet weapons, rockets and launch infrastructure fell into a period of neglect; but today Russia is making an admirable comeback on many fronts.
Russia’s Expanding Space Program
Aerial view of the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in east Russia
Soyuz-2 rocket on launch pad at Vostochny Cosmodrome
Soyuz 2-1a cargo mission departs the Baikonur Cosmodrome to deliver supplies to the International Space Station, Feb. 2018.
Russia’s new Angara-A5 heavy-lift rocket launches from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, Dec. 2014.
International Space Programs
Today only three countries are capable of manned space flight: the United States, Russia, and China. Unencumbered by the nuclear arms reduction treaties that hobble the U.S. and Russia, China’s military and civilian space programs are surging ahead, and the country has embarked upon an aggressive ballistic missile development program. Countries around the world have also embarked on their own space programs, and many new foreign space launch systems have come into existence in the last few decades.
World’s Launch Vehicles
Under Development (year of first flight shown)
China’s Tianzhou 1 freighter (left) conducted resupply and refueling tests while docked to the Tiangong 2 space lab (right) in Sept. 2017 (artist’s concept).
China’s future space station complex, mid-2020s (artist’s concept)
Ballistic Missile Defense
Since World War II both the United States and Russia have worked on ballistic missile defense systems (BMDS) to prevent enemy ICBMs, SLBMs, and their smaller cousins Medium and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs/IRBMs) from reaching their targets. During the Cold War both countries built elaborate systems of spy satellites, radars, and computer networks to scan the skies for ballistic missiles and their deadly nuclear warheads. In The Never Ending Frontier you’ll learn all about how these BMDS were developed, how they work, the different kinds of BMDS, and what the future holds.
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, headed by Lt. General James “Abe” Abrahamson, to develop a robust missile defense system intended to protect the United States from mass attack by ballistic nuclear weapons. Reagan’s “Star Wars” program, so called because it would require huge investments in space–based BMDS elements, would deploy a gauntlet of multiple tiers of defense. Space–based killer laser beams would slice into enemy ICBMs and SLBMs before they could dispense their lethal payloads, hypersonic interceptor missiles would engage any missiles in space that made it through, and shorter range attack interceptors would kill surviving reentry vehicles (RVs) before they could reach their targets. A massive network of ground and space–based radars, sensors, and observation platforms would maintain a watchful eye over the entire battlespace both on the ground and in space. Although the SDI made measurable progress towards its ambitious goals under Abe’s able leadership, by the late 1980s this grand scheme was deemed too expensive to deploy. Nevertheless it had two beneficial effects: it helped bankrupt a Soviet Union struggling to bolster its strategic arsenal to keep up, leading to its demise; and a foundation was laid for the more reasonable BMDS we have in place today..
Several RVs are carried on a “bus” which individually dispenses them towards their targets.
Incoming RVs are heated to white-hot temperatures in the exoatmosphere
Hypothetical view of oncoming BMD Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles in the midcourse phase from the offense’s point of view. The offense seeks to fool the EKVs into striking false targets like balloons or RV decoys.
The Missile Defense Agency operates a network of ground and sea–based sensors, radars, and some 40 ground-based interceptor missiles that can adequately defend against the more realistic threat of limited ICBM, SLBM, IRBM, or MRBM attacks by rogue nations.
The U.S. ground-based midcourse defense network in action during a typical test of the system. In this case a Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to play the role of a hostile ICBM with one or more dummy RV warheads. They may be equipped with lightweight decoys or penaids to promote realism. In an actual attack, the roles would be reversed, and GBIs would shoot down enemy ICBMs launched towards the United States. GBIs can also intercept stray ICBMs launched over the North Pole or Eastern Europe, in which case additional sensors and C2BMC assets (not shown) would be used to intercept them.
GBI being emplaced in a silo at Ft. Greely, Alaska
Test GBI launched from Vandenberg AFB, California. Most GBIs are maintained at Ft. Greely, with a few at VAFB.
Hit-to-Kill intercept during an actual test. GBIs have proven they can hit RVs head-on, the so-called “bullet hitting a bullet”.
The world–wide space industry has traditionally been dominated by government–funded communications and observation satellites. The Never–Ending Frontier describes how in recent decades a few courageous space entrepreneurs have given birth to a more multifaceted commercial age in space, including launch vehicles and spacecraft.
Today over 88 companies around the world have or are participating in private space ventures. The competition is fierce and relentless. Some have gone out of business, others are non-profit, a few have merged or been acquired, and new ones are constantly being added.
SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk in front of Falcon 9 launcher
Falcon Heavy launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Feb. 2018. The two boosters landed successfully, demonstrating reusability.
Elon Musk heads SpaceX, a front-runner in the burgeoning commercial space sector. Others have joined the fray, notably: Orbital ATK, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Bigelow Aerospace, Sierra Nevada Corp, Scaled Composites, and XCOR Aerospace. Such companies are overcoming daunting technological and business challenges as they democratize space with privately-owned, financed, and operated launch vehicles and spacecraft. NASA and the DoD continue to play a key role by giving promising companies development money and serving as a guaranteed customer while the industry improves its products and develops economies of scale. Dozens of companies around the world are participating in private space ventures, and it is only a matter of time until a formidable commercial space presence takes shape.
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy launching a large satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office from Cape Canaveral AFS, June 2016.
Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser in the launch configuration (artist’s concept).
Dream Chaser landing at Edwards AFB in California after a drop test flight (Nov. 2017).
Blue Origin’s New Shepard system undergoing test launch. It carries a capsule large enough to take six people to the edge of space (but not to orbit).
Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo craft approaching the International Space Station, July 2014.
Interior schematic view of Bigelow Aerospace B330 expandable module
Huge WhiteKnightTwo aircraft and SpaceShipTwo launching on a Virgin Galactic flight to suborbital space (artist’s concept).
SpaceShipTwo performing a rocket-powered test flight over California’s Mojave Desert, April 2018.
The Death of Rocket Science
In The Never Ending Frontier you’ll discover why “Kondratiev Cycles” presage an end to rocket science as we know it today; most likely within the lifetime of the average reader. Whereas advances in computers, software, the Internet, and electronics have revolutionized the life of practically everyone on the planet, rockets and propulsion science have seen comparatively little improvement since the 1950s. Rocket science is long overdue for a complete overhaul, but it is physically impossible to make more than token improvements. A completely new paradigm involving a physics breakthrough is required, presaging the “death” of rocket science as we know it today, and its replacement by field effects interactions or something to that effect. If history repeats itself, rocket science will not enter a slow death spiral. It will be a rather quick death, lasting a decade or two at best. The book describes what kind of “propulsion” systems will supersede rocket science in the 21st century and what they will look like, and it will blow your mind!
The Never-Ending Frontier describes how a field effects spaceship will probably depend upon sophisticated electronics, powerful electrical and/or magnetic fields, and field interactions with the surrounding space-time field. The field generators themselves won’t have to move, rather they will create fluctuating electromagnetic fields which can be focused, concentrated, and oriented to create forces that cancel out inertial forces and/or gravitational forces, and accelerate the spaceship in a controlled direction. Controls will be via printed circuit boards and avionics that will change the strength and orientation of pulsating electromagnetic fields. In theory, if the electrical or magnetic fields can be made to envelop the vehicle, all of its conductive structure could contribute to productive motive force.
This 22nd century Warp Drive concept could achieve faster-than-light speeds, but not instantaneous travel, by distorting spacetime itself. The device would generate a field of “negative energy” that would squeeze or stretch spacetime, creating a bubble. The bubble would ride the distortions like a surfer on a wave. As evidenced in the Big Bang and its cosmic inflation, spacetime can expand so quickly that objects embedded in it move faster than the speed of light.
The Death of Rocket Science
Humans will construct rotating space colonies in a variety of shapes like these in the next 200 years. Smart robots would be used as much as possible in their construction to avoid subjecting humans to space radiation and micrometeorite hazards. Thousands and then millions of people would live in an artificially-induced 1g environment on the inside of the outer rings. Recreational facilities could be located near the zero-gravity region also the central axis of the habitats. Terraforming of planets like Mars and eventually Venus to make them habitable will follow in the coming centuries. Terraforming of the Jovian moon Europa and Saturn’s Titan have also been proposed.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has so far proven fruitless. However, astronomers have found that the majority of stars have planets, and about 1 in 5 Sun-like stars have an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone. A conservative estimate is 40 billion habitable Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way, counting red dwarfs and rogue planets which don’t orbit any star. It is inconceivable that there isn’t intelligent extraterrestrial life out there waiting to be discovered. The Never-Ending Frontier describes human evolution from the past, to the present, and extrapolated to the future in an attempt to grapple with what an advanced ET species might look like and how they might behave. An encounter with such ETs would illuminate our pathway Beyond the Saga of Rocket Science.
Photo credits (in approximate order): Roskosmos (3), Russian Ministry of Defense, Walter Hammond (2), China Manned Space Engineering Office (2), SDI Program Office, Missile Defense Agency (6), SpaceX (3), U.S. Air Force, Sierra Nevada Space Systems (2), Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin, NASA, Virgin Galactic (2), Hector Serrano, Kris Holland, Don Davis, NASA/ARC (2), NASA/JPL-Caltech