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Frontier Status Report

Dale M. Gray is the president of Frontier Historical Consultants. Frontier Status reports are a free weekly annotated index chronicling the progress of the emerging "space frontier".

Understanding the Frontier

Space Launch Initiative
Frontier Processes at Work

Current Space Development as a Manifestation of Historic Frontier Processes

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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.


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 of the 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.


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 (TLC).

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 new technology.

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 plains.

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 as "hum-bugs".

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 approach.

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.

Igniting Frontiers

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 goals.

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 events;

* 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 America.

* 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 probes.

* 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 include:

* 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 resources.


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

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