A book about moving into space

by Jerome L Wright

Available 2017 Q3.

QuarkWeb Site

V-Infinity shows that all aspects of space development can be done in a minimum cost manner, which means that everyday people can participate. Space development can begin when costs come down.

The book is written in four parts:

Part One. Escape Velocity

Aurex is a large, simple launch vehicle designed to carry people, cargo, and habitat elements into orbit. There is both general and technical information describing the vehicle. The book shows how a habitat can be constructed by using Aurex. The expandable habitat provides Martian-level artificial gravity and could be home to a few thousand people. Aurex will be capable of carrying 30 to 50 people along with some cargo, or 40 to 50 tons of just cargo.

Part Two. Planetoids

Larger habitats can operate in Earth orbits and Solar orbits essentially as artificial planets. They can range in size from about one kilometer across up to fully planet sized. They could carry populations in the millions with a mobility that allows them to move around the Solar System.

Part Three. Civilization

Populations should eventually exist on Mars, other natural bodies in the Solar System, and in planetoids. They will be tied together by communications, trade, and social connections. Together with the population of Earth, they will form a Solar System wide civilization. Robots of various intelligence levels will be an integral part of civilization.

Part Four. Cosmos

Our civilization will endure across time and space, reaching other stars and spanning time that might be billions of years. But, the cosmos is a changing and at times a dangerous place that could potentially lead to a failure of humanity. We will not be alone as a species: smart AIs and non-human life forms will become part of our civilization.

Book Sample

The Development of Space

The development of space is a civilization changing development. Low cost access to space, essentiial for success, could rely on a high-capacity, minimum cost launch vehicle, here called Aurex.

If Aurex were to be launched 130 times, about the same as NASA's shuttle, it would allow accumulating in orbit about 10,000 tons of useful material, mostly structural steel. That is over 20,000,000 pounds, which would go a long way toward building the infrastructure that would enable humanity to move into space. (The International Space Station has a mass of 419 tons.)

When work was first being done on minimum cost design vehicles, the oft stated goal was: an order of magnitude reduction in launch costs. For space to be developed for private enterprise and homesteaders, some costs need to be reduced by two orders of magnitude. Minimum cost design principles are essential to make this a reality.

Orbtown is used as a working name for the first orbital town/city. There are undoubtedly better names to be found, but that can be addressed in the future.

Private Enterprise

Private enterprise has not yet become effective in creating access to space, but it will eventually. It is the most effective way of getting things done - in particular, at minimum cost. In time it should surpass the activities of political government in space development.

The technology and materials for low-cost access to space have been available for more than three decades. The implementation has not happened because private capital sources have mostly not been willing to support the enterprise. In the few cases where some private funds have been available, support went to companies inherently unable to accomplish the projects.

Some private capital ventures are currently in development for suborbital launches. Perhaps in time this will lead to support for orbital launches.

Designing for Minimum Cost

Minimum cost design (MCD) is an essential methodology to follow to make space accessible to private enterprise. In particular, vehicle mass is allowed to increase, sometimes drastically, to achieve minimum cost. The methodology considers all costs associated with a space hardware project, and drives the total life cycle cost to a minimum. The methodology can also be applied to software projects.

The goal of MCD is to minimize total life cycle cost, which does not necessarily equate to minimization of every component item. Further, constraints can exist for some component items. For example, the overall minimization process should not lead to initial capital requirements that exceed the available initial capital. Extensive use of robotics in manufacturing can, and likely would, lead to lowered manufacturing cost per unit, but typically entails higher upfront costs for production line hardware and software. In such a case, accurate estimates of production runs are important to determine how to proceed.

Arthur Schnitt originated the methodology of MCD for space launch vehicles and spacecraft, realizing it would drastically reduce the cost of access to space. His work is described in his Minimum Cost Design for Space Operations.

Mr. Schnitt and a colleague made a strong presentation on MCD to a group of aerospace managers and engineers at a conference, describing how MCD could bring an end to high-priced launch vehicles. His colleague announced, "Gentlemen, the gravy train is over!" Then...

About one week later, the program office was shut down. Col Kniss was given an immediate assignment in Paris, and I was banished to "Siberia" (from my perspective) within Aerospace. In fact, I was instructed to sever all communication on the subject of MCD with anyone within Aerospace, in the industry, and in any governmental agency. I was cut-off from the MCD studies that were currently underway and those that were planned to be conducted during the following several years. I was also told that after these studies run their course, MCD and the MCD/SLV will become mute subjects.

MCD is anathema to the aerospace industry and political government, but it is essential for the success of private, entrepreneurial companies and the people who want to create homesteads beyond Earth.

Launch Vehicles

The primary objective for a space launch vehicle intended to carry people and cargo into Earth orbit is minimum cost with safety. Minimum cost means simplicity in design and operations, and simplicity means reliability and safety.

We want more than just transportation, though. We want to build permanent facilities in Earth orbit where people can live and work - with their families. This adds more design requirements to the launch vehicle. Fortunately, this can be done without giving up the objective of minimum cost. We actually want a minimum cost launch vehicle that carries people, payload, and habitat elements.

The vehicle should be able to carry at least 30 to 40 tons of payload into orbit to be really useful. The permanent facility should be in an orbit with a minimum amount of aerodynamic drag while also low enough to avoid serious radiation levels. An orbit of 700 kilometers is selected to meet these requirements, which is significantly farther out than the International Space Station at 410 kilometers. Orbits of around 600 kilometers might also be acceptable.

Launching from the equator into an equatorial orbit allows a launch vehicle to deliver its maximum payload. This is important for the large spacecraft that go on to geosynchronous orbit as well as for the orbital habitat. Europe, Russia, and Brazil can launch into near-equatorial orbits. The US government does not currently allow US-built launch vehicles to operate from land sites outside the US. Ocean launches might be allowable. It might be necessary to use orbits with 28 degree inclinations to accommodate launches from Cape Canaveral.

Costs of launch and space vehicles can be controlled through a process called minimum-cost design (MCD). All aspects of a vehicle are reviewed to find design approaches that meet the requirements, but cost the least among the available options. This definitely does not mean using the cheapest parts or inferior parts. The success of this approach takes advantage of the fact that letting size increase means adding some more structure and propellant, both of which are relatively inexpensive. It is a well known fact in the industry that minimizing mass leads to cost increases. MCD takes things in the opposite direction.

The Aurex Launch Vehicle

Aurex is a proposed launch vehicle with a diameter of 10 meters, with a minimum-cost design (MCD) architecture. It has the same diameter as the Saturn V. It is roughly similar to Robert Truax's Sea Dragon in that it is a large two-stage pressure-fed design, but substantially smaller in size.

The Aurex project is defined by:


  • Establish orbital infrastructure
  • Establish a commercial high-capacity, low-cost transportation system
  • Open space for access by large numbers of people
  • Create transportation, housing, and jobs for large numbers of people.


  1. Assemble low-cost orbital habitats and other structures
  2. Deliver large payloads at minimal cost
  3. Carry large numbers of people into space at minimal cost
  4. Support Mars settlements and Lunar operations.

The design is driven in large part by the objective of getting as much habitable volume into orbit as practical while under the constraint of achieving minimal cost.

The core vehicle consists of two-stages. The 2nd is the orbital stage, which has two roles:

  • Transportation as the orbital stage
  • Infrastructure as a construction module.

It is made of maraging steel (200-250 grade), a tough, malleable steel with corrosion resistance because of its nickel content. It is easy to work with and does not require heat treatment for use as a habitat structure, although heat treatment is employed for launch loads.

Liquid oxygen is the choice for oxidizer because of its performance. Liquified natural gas (LNG), which is mostly methane, is selected as fuel because of its better performance than kerosene and easier handling than liquid hydrogen. It is inexpensive and readily available. However, LNG's advantage over kerosene is modest, so kerosene remains a viable option.

The 1st stage is made of the same steel and uses the same propellants. This stage is initially expendable, but it may later be recovered from a soft water impact for refurbishment and reuse.

The optimal diameter for the vehicle is 10 to 11 meters for its role in supporting permanent infrastructure in orbit. Ten meters is selected as a working value here.


Both stages have a single engine, pressure fed, with fixed or gimbaled mounting; the baseline is fixed mounting for both stages.

Each stage uses movable steering engines that burn the same propellants, tapping off of the main tanks.