Current Space Development
as a Manifestation
of Historic Frontier Processes
by: Dale M. Gray
Frontier Historical Consultants
P.O. Box 190765
Boise, ID 83719-0765
The words "Frontier" and "Space"
have been synonymous in the minds of the public since
before the days of Vostok and Mercury. The speed with
which project Apollo put man on the moon created in
the public mind an unrealistic expectation of rapid
growth and a nebulous impression that space was already
a new frontier. With few new milestones, public interest
waned. Government programs have established the means
to travel and explore space, but the financial incentive
to live and work in space has lagged behind. In light
of recent commercial activities in orbit, it is time
to reexamine activities in space and measure them against
the yardstick of previous frontiers. The following
inductive frontier model is based on a three-stage
progression of western society from wilderness, to
frontier, and ultimately to civilization. While the
model is drawn from the American frontier, it can be
applied to orbital activities on a world-wide basis.
Environment conditions necessary for ignition of geographic
and technological frontiers are discussed along with
the hallmarks of historic frontiers and the demographics
of frontiers. By applying this model to current commercial
space activities a determination can be made whether
a frontier has ignited in space.
A BRIEF HISTORY
OF AMERICAN FRONTIERS
Prior to 1893, one of the greatest factors influencing
the American economy and society was the nearly constant
presence of an expanding frontier to the west of the
original colonies. The frontier proved to be a source
of wealth, opportunity and escape. Frontier resources
were viewed as free- or nearly free- for the taking.
The first to control the resources would often become
fabulously rich. With cheap farmland available, the
expanding agrarian population of America could continue
to expand while maintaining economically viable farm
units. The frontier also acted as a safety valve for
society; dissatisfied individuals could leave civilization
and society to try to develop their own social, economic
or religious ideas in the freedom of the frontier.
By 1893 the waves of American expansion on the North
American continent had propagated across the continent,
bounded and rebounded - - like so many ripples upon
a pond -- until no geographic frontier line could be
discerned. Pockets of frontier remained, but these
were surrounded by civilization and were rapidly infilled.
Increasingly, America turned to frontiers of technology
and transportation to provide a source of wealth and
opportunity. Instead of seeking to develop and control
untapped resources, technological frontiers sought
to develop new aspects of technology and thereby gain
advantage and control of market sectors. A number
of these technological frontiers had existed in the
time of geographical frontiers: canals, manufacturing,
railroads, and steamboats. These technological frontiers
were often intimately linked with the development of
the geographical frontiers. However, after 1893, the
technological frontiers increasingly became the focus
energies and drive of the American people. America's
affluence became interconnected with rapid advances
in electricity, automobiles, farm equipment, communication
(telephone, radio and TV), aviation (propeller and
then jet engines), and computers. Like geographic
frontiers, development of each new technological frontier
propagated from aspects of previous frontiers.
We are on the leading edge of a new kind of frontier,
one that is in equal parts technological and positional.
Indeed, it is the first frontier in over a hundred
years with a definable expanding line. This frontier
consists of the rapidly developing commercial development
of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) up to and including Geostationary
Orbit (GEO). As with previous technological frontiers,
the new space frontier is creating tremendous wealth
and opportunities, but without -- currently -- any
direct human presence. This means the frontier does
not act as a societal escape valve nor is there as
heavy a risk of massive loss of life typical of physical
frontiers. However, as the frontier expands and a
human presence is required, it will in all probability
also serve in this capacity as well.
THE FRONTIER MODEL
Frontiers can be defined as expanding borderlands (figuratively
or literally) driven by economic cycles of rapid investment
with potential for disproportionate return on the investment.
This includes both outside investment and interrelated
"bootstrapping" where profits from economic
activity pay for additional development. This then
creates even greater profits for development. This
snowball effect often triggers additional outside investment
and a sustained cycle of frontier growth.
While frontiers are economic in nature they require
specific non-economic climates. Therefore an examination
of these non-economic conditions is needed. To assist
understanding of these factors, both past examples
and current space-related developments can be utilized.
For a primary frontier to develop, an established civilization
needs to have access to a wilderness with untapped
resources. These resources do not have to be known
in great detail for the frontier to develop. Only
one perceived resource need be utilized at a time.
At one point early English colonies in North America
were failing and in danger of starving. The introduction
of tobacco in the royal courts of Europe was sufficient
a spark to change the English colonies from poverty
to affluence. Two hundred years later in the Rocky
Mountains, resources such as beaver, gold, grass and
soil took turns as the sole frontier resource and lead
the way for the development of the infrastructure of
civilization. In terms of modern software developers,
a frontier needs only one "Killer App(lication)".
Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geostationary Earth Orbit
(GEO) space have a number of resources available: vacuum,
microgravity, isolation and position. In LEO "position"
in the form of bandwidths for telecommunication satellites
is well down the road of exploitation. In its wake,
the infrastructure of civilization is moving into space.
The failure of the PanAmSat Galaxy satellite earlier
this year put 90% of the North American beepers out
of service -- showing the extent to which the infrastructure
of civilization has moved into orbit. Other space
frontiers utilizing single focus resources include
the rapidly developing GPS industries and the emerging
business of commercial photo-reconnaissance.
However, for a wilderness to be ignited into a primary
frontier, three environmental conditions must be present.
Anthropologists have long known that societies expand
and contract due to changes in Technology, Social Systems
and Ideology. There is no evidence that mankind's
expansion into space will be an exception. Within
the realm of frontier these three environmental conditions
can be labeled Technology, Legislation and Charisma
Technology is the means by which undeveloped wilderness
resources are transformed into viable frontier industry.
Machines and systems enable human economic activity
in hostile wilderness environments. Both main-stream
and seemingly trivial technological developments have
been adapted for use in historical frontiers. These
frontier technology can be a new way to chip stone
on the African Plains, a windmill to pump water on
the American Plains or light composite materials to
wrap strap-on boosters. Many wilderness settings with
known resources have had to await technological advances
before frontier development could occur. Many played-out
frontiers have been rejuvenated by the influx of a
Legislation is the means by which human endeavor in
a wilderness is legitimized and trade to and from the
frontier is safeguarded. Since frontiers are areas
of economic speculation, frontier participants are
vitally interested in official recognition and protection
of their investment. Debt financing, the life-blood
of frontier, is simply not possible until a set of
rules is hammered out on all levels of frontier activity.
Historic miner courts were nearly always set up as
soon as prospectors realized they had viable strike.
By filing his claim at one of these Miner Courts,
the prospector protected his investment of capital
and sweat equity from any who would "jump"
his claim. Futher, the legitimate holding of the claim
allowed the miner to approach financial institutions
-- whether formal or informal -- and use the claim
as collateral for the funds for further speculative
development. In the old west, this reinvestment of
capital was called bootstrapping - - the process of
pulling yourself up by your own boots.
Charisma, often overlooked in frontier histories, is
the motivation that pulls men and women forward into
the wilderness to seek their fortunes. Reasons to
participate in frontiers can be as numerous as participants
-- ranging from personal desire for wealth to larger
ideologies that shape the course of nations. Among
the most common reasons to participate in a frontier
is the belief that frontiers offer opportunities no
longer available in civilization. It is this belief
that sustains participants through unimaginable hardships
and failures. In the 1840s, families struggling to
make a living on too small farms packed their possessions
and crossed the North American continent on the Oregon
Trail. Businesses utilize the charisma of frontier
to increase revenues. From the 1870s through 1890s
railroads promoted rail travel to the American West
in crowded cities in the American east and in Europe
by advertizing the cheap and fertile western lands.
Nations also utilize frontier issues and ideologies
to advance their own agendas. Manifest Destiny which
was a belief that the United States should stretch
from sea to sea, was a rallying cry for those promoting
the settlement of Oregon. Without human motivations,
there would be little reason for a frontier participant
to work the long hours, face the dangers and assume
the risk of a frontier when economic security can be
more easily obtained in the comforts of civilization.
A historic example of the TLC function at proper levels
can be seen in the homestead frontier on the American
western plains. In the 1890s there existed recently
developed technologies of windmills, barbed wire, mouldboard
plows and railroad lines across the continent (T),
several sets of homestead laws and favorable railroad
development plans which provided a legitimate means
of exploitation (L) and Horace Greeley and numerous
railroads shouting "go west young man" (C)
creating a public interest (some say hysteria) to settle
out west. As a result, the plains frontier economy
changed from a grass resource base (the cattle frontier)
to a frontier of smaller homestead farms. Roads, schools,
and local governments spread to blanket the western
Much like the three sides of a fire triangle, remove
one of the three environmental conditions and there
is no fire or frontier. Also, too much of one may
be just as detrimental just as too much gasoline will
flood a car engine. In the old West, excessive values
of Charisma in the form of rumors set off numerous
gold rushes to sterile streams and mountains. Men
and materials were squandered with little result.
The regions of the false booms gained ill reputations
Excessive governmental involvement (L) will also quash
frontier development. Soon after the Shuttle was first
launched, US satellites were required by law to be
launched by the Shuttle. The legislation effectively
killed the American expendable launch vehicle industry.
More recently, NASA's Bantam launch program sought
to procure small payload launch services from a designated
provider. Had the program progressed to fruition,
it would have created unfair advantage to one provider
while causing funding for competing systems to evaporate.
These smaller launch services provide an important
step for bootstrapping private enterprise into position
to exploit and profit from the frontier.
While it is hard for Americans to conceive of a situation
in which too much technological develop is detrimental,
it too must be in the proper level. Lack of technology
has often been the cause of frontiers failing, but
the reverse is also true when the technological development
draws off capital and initiative. Historic mining
camps with more mill than ore deposits are relatively
common. Investment in dead-end technologies is part
of technological frontiers. Howard Hughes' Spruce
Goose flying boat, is perhaps the best known example
of excessive technological development with little
hope for a reasonable return on the investment. However,
without the willingness to risk capital on unproven
"on the edge" technology, there would be
few technological frontiers. In a capitalistic system
the survivors with viable technology advance while
the assets of companies backing unusable technology
are shelved or absorbed by the survivors.
It is important to understand that failure is an important
part of frontiers. In a race to develop a technology
in a capitalistic system, ten approaches may be tried.
Nine approaches may be flawed and fail. These teams
and companies then shut down, go bankrupt or are absorbed
by other more viable companies. The winner, however,
gets the advantage of developing the best of ten technologies
while having paid the development costs for only one
The presence of an available wilderness and proper proportions
of TLC are environmental conditions and are not active
agents to ignite a frontier. In the days of Apollo,
America made profound changes within all three environmental
conditions. While there was an expectation of the
opening of a frontier, without a paying economic base
the lunar program remained only a governmental program.
Frontiers ignite when conditions are favorable and
money made in the wilderness is invested back into
the wilderness to make still more money -- bootstrapping.
Growth has been described variously as geometric,
exponential or explosive.
Once a frontier has successfully sparked, it is extremely
difficult to extinguish its flame. After Custer discovered
gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the government's
best efforts to keep prospectors out of the Indian
land proved fruitless. Once the flame of frontier
catches, rapid development from internal and external
sources will push levels of Technology, Legislation
and Charisma upward. As long as frontier resources
hold up, there is little that can stop development.
By the time the resources have been depleted or opportunities
diminished the frontier has moved onward, leaving civilization
in its wake.
The exact sparking of a primary frontier is rarely as
apparent as the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill
in California. Most frontiers start out quietly at
low economic and activity levels. They have been known
to begin in rural backwaters, remote mountains, small
labs and even in garages. The origin of a frontier
can be as small as two or three prospectors stumbling
half-lost in the wilderness or a few graduate students
in a rented apartment living on pizza and caffeine.
The initial sparking of the frontier has to overcome
a number of obstacles before it can become self-sustaining
and before accelerating growth can occur. These obstacles
vary widely and are highly specific to the details
of each particular frontier. Invention of new endeavors
and new ways of making money are not easy. In a physical
frontier such as mining, prospectors had to overcome
a variety of conditions. These may include: hostile
environments, lack of equipment, excessive distance
to supply and market, and lack of access to credit
and other fiscal devices. Technological frontiers
have equally daunting start-up problems. These may
include lack of equipment, lack of start-up capital,
difficulty of the technical problems, and lack of a
developed market. Individuals involved with both types
of frontier often struggle with a lack of experience
and training because they are, by definition, "going
where no one has gone before". As a result, there
are often no clear visions of direction or concrete
Collectively these obstacles are known as a "Launch
Bar" or the "Oler Launch Bar" in the
case of space-related activity. Simply stated, for
a frontier to ignite, the market value of frontier
products must be greater than the combined costs associated
with doing business in a frontier --the cost of manufacture
and the cost of transportation from the frontier to
market. However, the three TLC environmental conditions
can and do move the Launch Bar up or down. Since frontiers
are ventures into the unknown, applying this equation
is far from a science. More often than not invalid
assumptions doom enterprises before they are well begun.
For areas where there has been little previous activity,
the Launch Bar is high. These primary frontiers have
the greatest rate of failure and are often the slowest
to develop. Subsequent secondary frontiers have lower
launch bars and, therefore, are more rapidly developed.
The term "primary frontier" indicates the
first step from a wilderness to a civilization. For
technological frontiers, it indicates a radical departure
from previous technologies. Secondary frontiers which
ignite from active frontiers have radically lower launch
bars. For example, the secondary Nevada silver rush
resulted from aspects of the primary 1849 California
gold rush. Transportation links and technologies developed
and proven in the primary frontier are utilized in
the secondary frontier. Bankers reluctant to invest
in unproven areas of primary frontiers see less risk
in the secondary frontier -- increasing the available
venture capital in subsequent frontiers.
In today's terms, the primary telecommunications frontier
is motivating and paying for rapid advances in launch
services. With lower launch costs, larger satellites
and larger constellations are now possible--opening
whole new areas for space activity in secondary frontiers.
Investment capital is becoming available on the largest
of scales. The success of direct-to-home television
has inspired massive investment in other satellite
constellations such as CD Radio and Teledesic -- the
Internet in the sky.
While activity in the telecommunications frontier is
lowering the threshold for involvement in space on
nearly a daily basis, it is still so high that only
large corporations have the necessary funding to participate.
As activity increases, competition will push down
the cost of transportation to the frontier; governments
will begin to adjust to the needs of the frontier;
and people will increasingly look upward to space as
the source of opportunity for themselves and their
children. Ultimately, secondary frontiers in space
will probably be accessible to individuals of modest
means, but there is little indication that this will
happen in the relatively near future.
As the wilderness is transformed into a frontier, several
stages of speculative growth occur: 1) Initial prospecting
or identification of resources (exploration); 2) Claiming
first ownership of virgin resources (staking claims);
3) Speculative initial development of resources using
outside resources; 4) Rapid development of resources
using return on initial investment and large-scale
outside investment (Point of Frontier Ignition); 5)
Developing permanent infrastructure; 6) Harvesting
the wealth of the resources and paying dividends to
investors; 7) Widespread simultaneous placement of
frontier products on the market by several competitors
with resulting rapid drop in price per unit (bust of
boom market); and 8) Advent of civilization.
Hallmarks of a Frontier
Because of the high threshold for primary ignition and
the small scale of initial activities, it is often
difficult to detect frontiers in their early stages.
However, there are certain hallmarks that distinguish
an active frontier. These may include:
* connection with previous frontiers;
* rapidly expanding resource-based opportunities;
* rapid development of physical infrastructure such as
communication and transportation systems;
* widespread waste;
* senseless loss of human life;
* proliferation of paper schemes that range from underfunded
opportunities to outright scams;
* military involvement (either passive as with use of
surplus equipment or active);
* teaming of former enemies for greater mutual profit;
* evolution and introduction of "Robber Barons"
working to control resources;
* the influx of lawyers to handle fights over resources;
* multi-national participation;
* snowballing catastrophies with seemingly trivial trigger
* rapid economic development and economic infrastructure;
* "accidental" discoveries providing rapid
opportunity and growth
Several others hallmarks pertaini to conditions back
in civilization such as wild stock market investment
and continued improvement or tuning of the TLC.
There now exists a number of frontier ignition hallmarks
relating to the orbital frontier. These include, but
are not limited to:
* The previous technical frontier of television with
the recent moves toward digital broadcasts is directly
linked to the direct-to-home broadcast satellite industry.
The even earlier technological frontier of radio has
combined with standards of the CD industry to foster
the CD radio satellite industry now in development.
* The number of flight manifests far exceeds the number
of launches available for the foreseeable future.
* Every major player in the launch services industry
is racing to be the first to develop heavier lift.
US military sources estimate that within 10 years
medium lift systems will be able to lift the payloads
now limited to the expensive Titan 4 heavy lift system.
* Major players are combining strengths. Hughes Electronics
joined forces with PanAmSat; Boeing took over the space-related
portions of Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas
* Power players, similar to historic "Robber Barons",
have entered the arena. Bill Gates with Teledesic
is perhaps the archtypical example of a power player
attempting to control an entire branch of the frontier.
* The number of commercial launches and pounds placed
in orbit per year is rapidly increasing. Commercial
launches this past year have exceeded the number of
government launches. Profits from space developments
are now driving much of the industry. Of the 37 satellite
contracts now held by Hughes Satellite 34 are private.
* Production lines for launch systems are being streamlined
for improved efficiency and faster production times.
Hughes Sat and Ariane have both recently announced
measures to speed production and reduce cost. Lockheed
Martin has opened a new satellite manufacturing facility
and has streamlined assembly of the Titan 4.
* LEO resources are rapidly becoming controlled, specifically
bandwidths. This summer Eutelsat lost a claim to a
direct-broadcast satellite orbital position to the
Societe Europeenne des Satellites (SES) Last year TCI
was in a lawsuit over a bandwidth with a $230 million
dollar satellite at stake.
* Massive loss of human life for stupid reasons. In
February of 1996 a Chinese Long March failed shortly
after launch. The rocket landed on a hotel near the
launch complex reportedly killing a number of people.
* A number of new transportation systems have come on-line
are are in final stages for initiating launches. Active
systems include Lockheed Martin's Athena and Atlas,
Orbital Sciences' Pegasus XL and Taurus rockets, the
new Boeing Delta 3; ArianeSpace's Ariane 5; the Japanese
H-2 rocket; and the International Launch Services Proton
rocket converted to commercial use. Private systems
coming on-line include Kelly Space Astroliner; Rotary
Rocket; SeaLaunch; Kisler Aerospace K-1 rocket; Beal
Aerospace BA-2 rocket.
* Surplus military designs converted to commercial use
as in Atlas, Delta and Titan. The last of the cold
war Atlas boosters was launched only three years ago
and now new and improved Atlas boosters are in full
production. Two of the recently flown new systems,
the Athena and the Taurus, are based upon civilian
versions of the Minuteman Castor rocket motor.
* Common sources of material are developing and lowering
costs. The Titan 4 and the H-2 share common fuel and
oxidizer tanks: one built in Japan and the other in
* Accidents reveal new methods of making money on the
frontier. AsiaSat's problematic launch late last year
has resulted Hughes Space proving a new method of placing
satellites into GEO orbit by utilizing a lunar fly-by.
Problems with Galileo's main antenna has resulted
in new data compression software and new linkages of
antennas on Earth to communicate with planetary probes.
As a result smaller dishes can be used on future space
* Small errors snowball instead of damping out -- resulting
in catastrophic failures. Last year a Delta rocket
was destroyed in flight because one of its SRBs failed.
It was later determined the composite casing had been
dropped in the factory.
In addition, the TLC climate of the frontier is improving
on almost a daily basis. Some examples in each category
* With a $10 million purse awaiting the first private
launch service to loft 3 persons to 100 km twice in
two weeks, theX-Prize is raising corporate interest
in the frontier and pumping up the Charisma (C) of
space. John Glenn's return to space in late October
of 1998 has raised public interest.
* Government direct involvement in frontier activities
has been reduced in many areas (L). Shuttle processing
has been privatized. The Russian Proton rocket and
other former Soviet launch systems have become available
for private launches. The 1997-98 US Congress passed
legislation to improve the climate for space related
frontier activites. Australia passed legislation that
enticed Kisler Aerospace to test their reusable orbital
vehicle at the Woomera Rocket Range.
* Cellular phones, digital communication, microcircuitry,
and composite materials have significantly advanced
Technology in the last 10 years . Advanced oxygen
turbopumps, a lynch-pin technology are now on line
in the Shuttle.
* The X-33 program to advance to the state-of-the-art
in single stage to orbit vehicles (T) is now well into
the production of the first prototype. At least four
private firms are racing to provide low-cost reusable
launch systems for small payloads into LEO.
These hallmarks and climatic conditions are supporting
evidence for what is the true frontier acid test involving
the flow of money -- money being generated on the frontier
spurring further space development. This occurs in
two ways. 1) it creates a speculative climate among
investors that can generate huge amounts of money for
frontier development. For example ASIASAT's first
public offering of stock generated hundreds of millions
of dollars. 2) The frontier developments begin generating
their own money for development. Intelsat is a good
example of this. Together, these rapidly expanding
money pumps are a sign that the LEO frontier has ignited
and is becoming self-sustaining and is not just a "Humbug"
in old west vernacular.
Entrance to a frontier by an individual or company always
comes at a cost. Historically rich or middle class
individuals were able to buy their way in with a ticket
or "outfit". Poorer individuals had to buy
their way in by selling personal freedoms and/or control.
Slaves followed their masters; soldiers working on
frontier military posts had to stay at a post until
discharge (or steal back their freedom and go AWOL);
indentured servants had to sell some of their personal
freedoms, the product of their labor and control of
where they went; and prisoners transported to a frontier
at public cost had severely restricted freedoms until
their sentences were finished or they escaped. Alternately,
impoverished families opted to pool resources and send
a representative (a likely lad or lass) to the frontier
with expectations of being paid back. Ireland was
long supported by payments sent from America. Indeed,
China also benefited in this manner from their involvement
with western gold frontiers.
Frontiers are very much like wildfires, they spark in
one location and then move rapidly onward. To take
full advantage of a raging frontier, it is often necessary
to rapidly pull up stakes and move to the new action.
In today's active technological frontiers, the cost
of admission is often a technological education. But
the advance in frontier technology is so rapid that
degrees are often obsolete or in less-than-useful areas
before they are awarded. The educated person must
constantly retool and try to catch up.Restricted freedoms,
such as taking a dead-end factory engineering job to
pay for college loans, significantly reduces the number
and quality of available frontier-oriented opportunities.
Slaves, indentured servants and soldiers were often
freed too late to take advantage of the best claims,
best homesteads, best whatever. In fact, for some
frontiers such as the Klondyke, there was only a couple-of-week
window of entrance for success. If a person wasn't
free to go at that point, he or she was excluded from
all the action. By the same token, persons who sent
a significant portion of their income back home to
pay back loans for their transportation costs, had
low fiscal reserves, thus reducing their ability to
move to the frontier or to enter it equipped to take
advantage of available opportunities.
While poor people are not excluded from frontiers, their
role as active players in most cases has been traded
off just to get in proximity to the action. Middle
class and upper class players have increased opportunities
and increased chances for success due to their ability
to act freely and in a timely manner. "A day
late and a dollar short" is a very apt phrase
for those who enter a frontier late or without adequate
While frontiers are extensions of society into new,
previously untouched areas, they do not spring fully
formed from the void. Nearly all frontiers spring
from the combination of unexplored aspects of several
previous frontiers. The Primary frontier of the California
Gold Rush for example would not have been possible
if not for at least three previous frontiers. The
Beaver pelt frontier of the 1820s and 1830s established
routes through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and created
the first American involvement in California. The
Oregon agrarian frontier beginning in 1843 put a wagon
road across the continent and firmly placed the idea
of Manifest Destiny in the minds of Americans - that
America was destine to reach from Atlantic to Pacific
shores. The Georgian gold rush of the early 1800s
taught men the skills and developed the technologies
of gold mining. Together these three frontiers lowered
the Launch Bar to such an extent that middle-class,
and even poor men and women, were able to take part
in the California Gold Rush.
While much of the hardware on the space frontier has
directly evolved out of governmental programs, the
current economic activity in space is as much or more
the result of other previous technical frontiers that
have created the equipment and, more importantly, the
markets that make the frontier economically viable.
Television, which exploded onto the scene in the late
1950s and early 1960s, is the direct parent of the
space industry. Earlier communications frontiers stretching
back to radio, telephone and even the modern version
of telegraph messaging have played a role in creating
the markets and technology of the current space frontier.
Computers, both mainframe and personal, are also lending
heat to the frontier fire.
One of the most recent technological frontiers, the
Internet, is having an ever-increasing role in space.
Teledesic, financed by the richest men on earth, is
seeking to create an Internet communications system
in Low Earth Orbit. But space is increasingly becoming
available to persons of modest means. Remote Sensing
companies have made two meter resolution, space-based
photographs available on the Internet for as little
as $7.95 (US) per image. Indeed millions of people
world wide are now able to virtually partake in the
exploration of the solar system. Photographs taken
on Mars and transmitted to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in California were posted on the Internet where web-pages
received a record 100 million hits. Images from the
wilderness of Mars were seen throughout the world only
a few minutes after they were taken on Mars.
For the past two and a half years the pace of commercial
development on the high frontier has been seen to accellerate.
Governmental programs operating in the wilderness
of space have experienced a downward spiral in funding
worldwide while the number of launches for private
companies has rapidly increased until they have exceeded
the number of governmental launches. Private systems
such as Iridium, Globalstar, Orbcomm and Teledesic
have been funded and well along business plans that
include the launch of unprecedented numbers of satellites.
Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit telecommunications satellites
continue to grow in capability and in mass. The Ariane
5 launch system which was designed to carry multiple
satellites in orbit, is now entering a market where
heavier satellites restrict the number of satellites
it can carry up to GEO.
For much of the 1990s, the frontier environmental conditions
of Technology, Legislation and Charisma have been lowering
the Launch Bar for ignition of the orbital frontier
at a relatively modest rate. However, in the last
five years, that rate has accelerated. Hallmarks of
frontier, once rare, are now rapidly springing up as
companies plow money made in orbit back into space-related
activities. Government-led exploration of space is
giving way to privately-funded exploitation of orbital
resources. Advances in transportation and technology
are now being driven not by programs supported by taxes,
but by economic competition. Whether by policy or
by inaction, government agencies have handed over the
lead and are increasingly playing enabling or supporting
roles. The realization that space has become an integral
part of our lives is slowly dawning. The words space
and opportunity are becoming synonymous to entrepreneurs.
Utilizing this frontier model it has been found that
the first Primary frontier in space has been ignited
and successfully launched. While it is difficult to
determine when self-sustaining ignition occurred, this
point appears to have been reached by the spring of
1996. Space, once a barren wilderness, can now be
favorably compared to historical frontiers. With the
Primary frontier of orbital telecommunications leading
the way, secondary frontiers such as GPS systems and
Remote Sensing are beginning to develop and prosper.
Like historic frontiers, these frontiers will continue
to propagate outward in the form of new frontiers.
But unlike the American West, there are no far shores
to stop their advance.
Copyright (c) 1998 by Dale M. Gray. Published by the
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics,
Inc., with permission. Released to IAF/IAA to publish
in all forms
Original file name: Frontier Model.rtf