I’ve often asked myself what I’d do if I were king of the cosmos and controlled how humanity migrated into space. You know what? In the tradition of Albert Einstein and “thought experiments”, I’m going to explore that. Let’s call it Outbound Operational Plan for Space Migration, or OPS, for now.
There are a list of developmental milestones that I think we ought to reach going forward, at least in very broad strokes. For each milestone, there would be associated Technology Readiness Levels, or TRLs, as the space industry calls them. These TRLs indicate the level of feasibility and confidence any particular technology holds for being used on a space program.
As my first act as KönigKosmos, I’d say the first milestone would be Pre-Crew Rocketry – Ballistic Studies. (OPS.1)
This is essentially complete in terms of its TRL, as the hurdles in that technology were cleared back in the 1940’s and 1950’s with things like the German V2 weapons programs, and the American and Russian follow-on work improving on on German rocketry after World War II. That phase was well validated as we went into the Mercury Redstone flights leading into the crewed Mercury flight missions. Certainly, things must have been going well for the Soviets, as well, since they beat us into manned spaceflight with Yuri Gagarin!
Of course, that doesn’t mean that new companies aren’t even today exploring that phase all over again, either in the quest to relearn the same lessons for themselves or to work on new ways of satisfying the milestone. The latter is being well-explored by companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, and also by a whole slew of other, smaller companies hungry for the Outbound journey. And I suspect that more companies will keep showing up at that milestone gate.