Becoming Spacefaring: America’s Path Forward in Space

By James Michael “Mike” Snead, PE

This paper was published in the Journal of Space Philosophy, Fall, 2015, issue. It is available in the PDF format here and here.


Fundamental to a nation’s national security is energy security. The United States is substantially energy insecure, and this energy insecurity is growing. A barrel of oil equivalent (BOE), representing the energy content of 42 US gallons of oil, is a convenient measure of energy resources, production, and consumption. In 2010, with a population of 309.3 million, the United States consumed 18 billion BOE of energy, with 85% coming from fossil fuels. By 2100, with a likely population of 617.5 million, the United States will need 31 billion BOE of energy. Fossil fuels cannot meet this demand. Hence, the United States must switch to sustainable energy. This will take decades and cost tens of trillions of dollars. The only practicable option is space-based solar and nuclear power, most likely from geostationary Earth orbit, and transmitted to ground receiving stations. To become energy secure with sustainable space-based power, the United States must begin a spacefaring industrial revolution and become a true, human, commercial spacefaring nation. A substantial, airline-like spacefaring infrastructure must be built throughout the Earth-Moon system to support this new and substantial space-based power industry. The presidential policy changes needed to pursue space-based power and the spacefaring industrial revolution are discussed.

Keywords: United States, energy security, immigration policy, technically recoverable fossil fuel resources, White’s Law of Cultural Survival, standard of living, space-based power, space solar power, spacefaring, space policy

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Paper outline and content on each page:

  1. Abstract, keywords, paper outline
  2. Introduction
  3. The Vital Importance of Affordable Energy Security
    1. How energy influences how we live
    2. Taking the threat of future fossil fuel wars seriously
    3. Immigration policy and energy security
    4. Migration now has a negative impact on modern civilizations
    5. The negative impact of immigration on US energy security is substantial
    6. The United States has limited useful fossil fuel resources remaining
    7. Continued immigration will dramatically increase energy insecurity
    8. The impact of energy conservation is likely to be marginal
    9. Likely net immigration will double the cost of switching to sustainable energy
    10. Immigration will cost about $240 Billion per year on average
    11. Terrestrial nuclear energy Is not a viable solution
    12. Wind and ground solar power are not politically acceptable solutions
    13. Terrestrial renewable energy sources are simply not practical to replace fossil fuels
    14. Space-based power is the remaining solution to make America energy secure
    15. Space-based power will be a significant national undertaking
  4. Building a New Spacefaring Logistics Infrastructure will be the first step
    1. The feasibility of building this new infrastructure is right above your head
    2. Putting some financial numbers to this undertaking
  5. Becoming spacefaring will be anew public-private enterprise
    1. The benefit of new grand national energy engineering projects
    2. America’s current space enterprise is obsolete
    3. Effective public-private collaboration will be the key to success
    4. The space industrial boom is about to begin
    5. The proven path to opening new frontiers—build new infrastructure
  6. Where the United States stands today in terms of commercial spaceflight passenger transport
    1. The importance of airworthiness-certified passenger spaceflight systems
    2. America’s interest in fully reusable space access dates back to the 1950s
    3. The US aerospace industry has been able to build fully reusable space access systems since the 1980s
  7. Where to start to become spacefaring and energy secure
    1. Engineering societies must take the lead
    2. Presidential leadership is critical
    3. With such a new president, the starting point is policy
    4. New national energy security policy
    5. New national space-based power policy
    6. Nation Space Policy → National Spacefaring Policy
    7. National Space Transportation Policy → National Spacefaring Logistics Policy
  8. Conclusion – What this all means
  9. About the author
  10. Editors’ notes
  11. References and footnotes