Saturday, February 27, 2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Builders Wanted!

Photo from "The Martian"
Space is a perfect industry for a rebirth of old ideals. Today software is king. Computer scientists, programmers, and entrepreneurs work to find the next silicon based solution to any problem. In space, information technology is important but not the end-all-be-all. Space is going to require people with practical knowledge who are willing to get their hands dirty. Mechanical engineers, mechanics, technicians, farmers, laborers, etc are going to be the careers in demand as space travel, and particularly, colonization begin to take off.

The reason software careers are so prevalent today on earth is because much of the infrastructure has already been created. The fiber has been laid, the computer production has been automated, the software engineers' houses have been built. Space does not have this physical infrastructure that allows information systems to operate. There is no way to created a more efficient habitat using an app on Mars if there is not an existing habitat.

Students who are in high school today, or even professional engineers currently, need to wrap their
head around the opportunity coming their way. People who build things are going to be needed. From the launch to the landing. Schools can also encourage this slightly by realizing that being a farmer or builder will have a future.

All this stuff that has to be created also is going to be entirely new. It will require new techniques of manufacturing, new design methodologies, new materials. When outfitting a lunar home you can't simply go to Ikea and grab a few coffee tables, though this may happen if a crunch arises.

Now, software will still be needed. Space will be highly robotics based. Unmanned system may prepare sites and build structures. This will require a huge amount of information technology and the programmers that go with it. But robots have their limits. And when it comes to creating things they are highly limited. (Yes the Singularity will likely change that but lets not go down that rabbit hole at the moment.) And there is still the issue of building the bodies of the robots that must perform these tasks.

Space is a frontier. In order to conquer a frontier "ideas" and "apps" are not enough, something must be built. And since this frontier is entirely new entirely new things must be built. Students and professionals might consider preparing just a little for the onslaught that will arrive in about a decade when space travel will be gaining speed. A smartphone cannot plow a field and a robot, currently, can't design furniture for a space station. In order to be a big part of space you will have to build something tangible.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Nuclear Devices in Space

Here is an essay that was written by one of the authors for a college course several months ago. We thought you might enjoy it though it might be better to just skim it. This paper was meant for an uninitiated audience.

Mars has long been a target of space colonization. This little planet is actually quite similar to Earth in many different ways. But in order for Mars to be a planet that is truly amenable to humans, that is, a place where people can go and walk in the Martian sun as one would on Earth, the planet has to be terraformed. Terraformation is the global engineering of a planet’s environment (Moss). In Mars’ case terraformation refers to the heating of the planet. Several methods for terraforming
Elon Musk with Stephen Colbert
Mars have been put forward. These ideas have included pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere or dropping asteroids on the planet. But the concept which is now receiving the most attention is one referenced by Elon Musk on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. When Colbert asked what it would take to make Mars livable, Musk replied that “There are two ways, the fast way and the slow way.”(Colbert) The slow way was to use greenhouse gases to hasten global warming on Mars. The fast way was to drop thermonuclear weapons on the poles. It was the fast way which has received the attention.

In order for Mars to be the planet which humans leave Earth for, it will have to be terraformed. The use of nuclear weapons is one of the most practical methods of accomplishing the task. While technological challenges exist even with this approach, it will be the geopolitical and interplanetary ethics which will pose the greatest challenge to any type of Mars transformation.

Why is it that Musk believes that thermonuclear weapons would be ideal for terraforming Mars? The goal behind the plan is to create a runaway greenhouse effect on Mars. Mars is full of carbon dioxide. The tenuous atmosphere that exists there already is primarily carbon dioxide, and the poles are composed of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice. Detonation of nuclear weapons over the poles is expected to heat them enough to release huge amounts more CO2 into the atmosphere. Ideally, this initial release of CO2 would heat the planet enough that more CO2 would be melted, and from that warming more still, continuously until all the dry ice has been melted and ejected into the atmosphere. From there plants can be introduced to convert the CO2 into oxygen. Nuclear weapons are ideal to start this process because they are understood, powerful and compact. Other options for starting the process of CO2 release require huge infrastructures and technologies which have not yet been developed.

However, even though the plan is feasible technologically it is almost insurmountable politically. The current Outer Space Treaty which is signed by most nuclear powers of the world, and all space powers, states that no weapons of mass destruction will be placed in space (United Nations). Basically, the global UN treaty prohibits nuclear weapons in space. There is a possibility that the treaty can be amended to allow thermonuclear devices to be deployed for the peaceful purposes of terraforming Mars. After all, peaceful applications of thermonuclear devices in space have never been a large consideration. Also, conveniently the treaty does not apply to individuals or companies, and may become even less of a factor.

A bill up for vote in the U.S. senate is set to give companies control of extracted materials from asteroids, (Fecht) even though the UN treaty states that no country may control any resources in space. The U.S. bill will set a precedent for private organizations to make decisions about space utilization outside of international treaties. The bill will also allow for the United States to develop local legislation to allow private organizations to decide the fate of Mars. So essentially, the U.S. may not be internationally allowed to unilaterally claim parts of space or Mars, but it can provide the resources to a private company, not bound by the treaty to terraform Mars. This all operates under the assumption that the Space Act of 2015 is ratified by Congress. But it does present the possibility that Elon Musk could obtain the means to terraform Mars with nuclear devices as a peaceful utilization of the devices without forcing the U.S. to break its treaty.

If the humanitarian effort to terraform Mars with nukes was ratified by the UN, or enabled by U.S. legislation, there would be multiple primary objections to the possibility, both are based on safety. In order to get to space one must take a rocket. Rockets, the world over, only have a success rate of, at best, 96 percent (Lafleur). What would occur if a rocket carrying a nuclear device exploded upon launch (Jauregui)? Also what should occur if terrorists or hackers hijack the device and point it back towards Earth. These are the concerns of a nuclear device being launched.

The latter argument is inconceivable. Such a device would have higher than normal military security. It would not be as if it is a basic laptop to be hacked. If the nuclear arsenal of the US has not been breached then neither will a rocket to Mars be compromised.

So, regarding the issue of a failure. This is a legitimate concern. But what few people realize is that there have already been multiple nuclear payloads sent into space. The Curiosity rover uses a radioactive device to power itself which would have disintegrated should it have exploded at launch. There have also been multiple SNAP-10A fission reactors launched since the 60’s (Bennett). Thus far there have been no accidents. But the reality is that even if one of these nuclear devices were to explode in the rocket the danger of radioactive fallout would be minimal. A nuclear blast creates dangerous fallout because it is able to eject decaying plutonium in all directions very energetically and evenly. A rocket exploding is a firecracker in comparison. The reactor and its contents would fall out of the sky and into the ocean, not spread like a plume across a continent. Overall, the dangers of safety are arguments similar to saying that we might get hit by a car if we cross the street, so one should never cross a street. It would not be negligent to attempt to launch a nuclear cargo to Mars.

So, assuming that nuclear devices have been approved to go to Mars and detonate, the next argument for the opposition would be that of the ecological impacts such an act would have on Mars itself (Jauregui). These objections stem from the idea that humans do not fully understand Mars yet. Mars has been considered one of the prime locations in the solar system to find life or remnants of life. Mars is theorized to have once been very earthlike, warm and wet. These theories lend credence to the idea that there are either fossilized or living organisms to find on Mars (Johnson). But should humans go and start nuking the planet, they could obliterate evidence of that past Martian life, or possibly even that life itself if it still exists. This issue can be likened to endangerment and human caused extinction of animals on Earth. The trouble is on Earth there are other resources, other solutions to deforestation, on Mars those options are limited because terraformation is required to even open the door to those other possibilities. Mars must be terraformed in order to provide a human presence that is capable of fully understanding and studying the planet. This cannot be achieved with rovers, but it can with humans.

There exists the possibility that small colonies will be established before the planet is terraformed. The stations would conduct the science to prepare the planet for the terraformation and design the process. While performing these studies scientists would be able to conduct the final surveys for life. If found, the organisms can be protected from the terraformation process so that they can be fully studied. In this way the transformation of the planet will not eliminate any potential existing residents, and the scientific value of those organisms can be viably and organically retained.

Mars is generally touted as a second planet for humans, to ensure that if a life ending event occurs
on one planet the other will preserve the human race. Should initial preparation and study of the planet not be performed the terraformation should continue. It is not appropriate to put the protection of a hypothetical organism or fossil ahead of the actual dangers posed to the fully conscious and creating organisms that are human. Some would say that the dangers to Earth are of the same probability of getting hit by a car while crossing a street, which I presented previously, therefore why should Mars be colonized out of fear. To this let us be clear, if human protection was the only reason then there would be no interest in Mars. Humans can’t fight the urge of a donut even though it could kill them. The idea of a multi-planetary society extends far beyond survival as a benefit. These include solving problems such as population density, political oppression, and economic growth. A new planet allows humans to develop in ways that we have never seen since Europeans started coming over to the Americas. Mars is bare ground for people to create a new start. The colonization must occur for human progress to continue. That is indeed more valuable than a scientific curiosity which may or may not exist, and would still be able to be studied even after the terraformation. The development of the human race is also a hypothetical which is justified through the data of history and how expansion has improved quality of life but also scientific and economic ability to protect and understand environmental issues.

Elon Musk is a marketing genius. He often drops hints and ideas in order to improve visibility of projects he is working on. But he is also a proven achiever of lofty goals. He already operates several technology companies, one of which provides orbital rockets to service the International Space Station. When Elon Musk states that nuclear weapons are a viable method for preparing Mars for human colonization, it is generally a well substantiated belief and even future plan he is working on (Masunaga). Terraforming a planet with nuclear devices is a possibility (, and though there are hypothetically-based concerns about it, none of them are legitimate enough to prohibit the plan. The primary issue with actually implementing it will be the fears of what may occur on Earth, either due to potential political backlash or a failure of the vehicle carrying the devices failing. It is possible that the political hurdles can be overcome and the other is a concern based on hyperbole. Nuclear devices can and should be used to prepare another planet for human development.

 Bennett, Gary. "Space Nuclear Power: Opening the Final Frontier." 4th International Energy Conversion Engineering Conference and Exhibit (IECEC) (2006). Print.

"Citation Machine Automatically Generates Citations in MLA, APA, Chicago, Turabian, and Harvard." Citation Machine: Format & Generate Citations รข€“ APA, MLA, & Chicago. Imagine Easy Solutions. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

Colbert, Stephen. "Elon Musk Might Be A Super Villain." YouTube. YouTube, 10 Sept. 2015. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.

 Fecht, Sarah. "Is Space Mining Legal?" Popular Science. Popular Science, 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

 Jauregui, Andres. "Sorry, Elon Musk: One Does Not Simply Nuke Mars Into Habitability." Huffington Post. Huffington Post, 11 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

Johnson, Carolyn. "Ancient Lake on Mars Could Be a Prime Target in Search for Life - The Boston Globe." Boston Globe, 27 Mar. 2015. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

 Lafleur, Claude. "Spacecraft Stats and Insights." The Space Review:. The Space Review, 5 Apr. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

 Masunaga, Samantha. "What Scientists Say about Elon Musk's Idea to Nuke Mars." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 11 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

Moss, Shaun. "Terraforming Mars." Mars Papers (2006). Print.

"SNAP-10A." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

"United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs." Outer Space Treaty. United Nations Office of Space Affairs, 19 Dec. 1966. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

 "Why Elon Musk's 'nuking Mars' Idea Isn't All That Far-fetched." 10 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Space Economy Has Been Published!

The Space Economy has been compiled into a book. Get a fully revised and edited collection of the essays on The Space Economy blog on Amazon, in print or on Kindle.

Purchase Our Book on Amazon

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Killer Asteroids from Asteroid Mining

Many great developments and goods will come from space industries such as asteroid mining. But with every new technology or capability comes the potential misuse and weaponization of those capabilities. It is imperative that such dangerous possibilities are addressed before errors occur.

In recent years there has been a great deal of hype about preparing for a possible collision with a stray killer space rock. People are scared that what happened to the dinosaurs may be repeated. The trouble is that while the world has been working to create ways to deflect these rocks which might hit us, others have been working to bring them right to us.

Asteroid mining is going to be a reality. Telescopes are already mapping potential candidates and companies and NASA are creating hardware to retrieve them. The reason space rocks will have to be returned to a close proximity to Earth (most plans intend to have the rocks delivered to Lunar orbit) is so they can be mined easily. Why drive a truck to a mine over and over when you can just bring the mine to the factory?

The meteorite which was supposed to have killed the dinosaurs was believed to be several miles in diameter. Now there are no plans by anyone to return a rock that big, now or in the near future, though it will undoubtedly occur someday. But a rock only 20 meters in diameter can have more strength than a nuclear bomb, as witnessed with the Chelyabinsk meteor.

All it takes to move an asteroid is a little bit of power and time. The intentions, when these
asteroids are being brought toward Earth is science and mining. However, what protections and countermeasures will be in place when the ship moving the asteroid is hacked and put on a collision course with Earth? What if the ship just loses control while carrying what is essentially a nuclear payload, if allowed to fall to Earth?

The key to stopping an asteroid impact is knowing that it is coming ahead of time. What will be the lead time when an asteroid, supposedly under control, breaks free of the leash? A pedestrian can jump only if they know the car won't hit the breaks, but we all know that a car is supposed to stop at a crosswalk so we don't look for it. We may be looking for the stray rock but it might be the one everyone knows about that gets us.

Preparations for defending Earth from space hazards must be pursued and considered. Natural events need to be prepared for, but so far humans haven't had to fear nature so much as other humans, when searching for a source of annihilation. Asteroid mining creates a plane with nuclear bombs which could be hijacked by terrorists.

Many solutions already exist to prepare for the event of a rock getting off the leash. Fortunately, large countermeasures are not something which have to be implemented for sometime. Conventional weapons are allowed in orbit, and these could destroy small asteroids coming toward Earth. Proper security protocols will inhibit most hacking, but cyber-security is a perpetual arms race. A very simple solution would be to have a certain location far away from the Earth where asteroids could be delivered and broken up into smaller pieces for Earth delivery. If a rock doesn't remain in that area it is immediately counted as a rogue and destroyed. The trouble is this solution creates a great inhibition to asteroid mining companies which need the asteroids as close to Earth as possible to allow proximity to mining technology.

Asteroid mining is going to happen. Asteroids will be brought to Lunar and even Earth orbit. Generally there will be no dangers with these practices. But the possibility will exist of having one of those rocks getting loose or being loosed and falling toward Earth. Countermeasures must be created for this event. It is far more likely than some killer asteroid appearing out of the darkness.

For methods of deflecting asteroids read this article.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Martian Society

Mars One Concept for Initial Mars Base
Mars will likely be the first planet, after Earth, which humans will have a permanent presence upon. But what will a Martian society be like? How will it develop and what will Martians be like to trade with. What will be the state of technology. And what will be the mindset of a Martian. In order to create a multiplanetary economy these are all questions that must be explored.

Here are the basic predictions we'll cover in this post. Mars will be agrarian. It will be technologically advanced initially. Martians will be highly independent. Mars will be an ecological experiment station. It will lead advances in agriculture and genetics. It will be a planetary country. Any commerce, at the beginning, on Mars will be basic bartering and trading.

To imagine Mars will be agrarian is a given. In order to survive initial colonist will be required to have a firm grasp of agriculture. This will continue for perhaps hundreds of years as farming is the only means to produce the food needed on Mars. It will remain the focus until Mars  is terraformed.

In the early days the farming will occupy the attention of many of the people in a colony. The limited space and inhospitable environment will require constant attention be given to farms to ensure they produce adequately. Automation and robotics will likely come to replace the amount of attention and labor given to day to day farming activities. However, the farm will remain the primary focus of the colonists. Therefore when they gain time for research and study it will be toward methods of improving the farming techniques to increase their standard of living

While Martian society will be based on agriculture the society will still be technologically advanced. In order to land and then live on Mars for any period of time requires technologies which are not commonplace on Earth. There will be a dependency of Martian society on that technology. And, in order to grow at an appreciable rate the best and newest technologies will have to be delivered. Not to mention the fact that genetics and material science will be important aspects of Martian survival based on the farming foundation. Both of those fields require highly advanced technology. But since exploitation of Martian resources to produce such products as silicon chips will be difficult, Earth will have to supply it. Technology will be the Earth's primary export to Mars.

In fact, as compared to Earth the technological infrastructure of Mars will be greater. This will be a side effect of establishing a colony on Mars. Anything that does not have to be landed will not be landed. For this reason communications will be wireless from the very beginning and computing will likely be in the form of orbital data centers. Such a system simplifies the delivery of such technological payloads from Earth.

Concerning power generation. Mars will begin using solar and nuclear powersources. Coal and other fossil fuels will not be an option. This will again leap ahead of Earth. Perhaps to such an extent that even orbital power plants will be in use early in the society due to the access to Earth delivery craft. Nuclear will be an option since fears of such technology will not exist on Mars.

To explain why such technologies as nuclear reactors will not be feared on Mars we should discuss the people. To be blunt Martians will be the best people alive. Mars is to far away and too expensive to send herds of people to. Even if a launch from Earth becomes inexpensive the cost and risk of landing large groups of people on the planet are too great. So with fewer people being delivered they will be sifted.

Unlike the Americas Mars has few initial resources to draw from. The people that are sent to Mars will have to be geneticists, botanists, and farmers who are able to adapt Earth ecology to the Martian environment quickly and without hesitation. When we say "farmers" that is exactly what we mean. Not some professor of agriculture but a farmer who has been able to make horrible ground yield a crop. Practical experience will be essential to all Martian settlers. When creating a colony intellectual pursuits will have to be focused toward practical decisions and action.

Now, since all of the people that are chosen to become Martian colonists will be practical and scientific individuals they will not have a mindset obscured by propaganda. Fears of meltdowns and the like, which inhibit nuclear power on Earth, will be ignored by Martians who have no such luxury as fear when there are only a few options that will work for them.

This practicality and intellectual aptitude, which will grow in Martians, will make them highly independent. Perhaps even more independent than the Americas were. The continual need for survival, little chance of return, and a far greater lack of resources than in the Americas will force Martians to depend on no one but each other.

Martians will have to be very tolerant as well. To be cooped up together for long periods of time will require it. Even as colonies grow into enclosed cities all Martians will be in close proximity to each other.

The colonies will also likely be only one single colony. It makes no sense to attempt to colonize a planet with multiple small settlements. The foundational work and infrastructure is too great. Earth's international affairs will likely move far enough along that only a single colony will ever be attempted, supported by all parties involved. This raises the diversity line again. The colony will have to adopt a single language and societal structure which will span all the cultures that will arrive. This commonality will be helped along by the practicality inherent in early Martians.

From this single colony Martian society will grow. Since multiple colonies will not be pursued multiple Martian cultures will not arise early on. This will create a single Martian society. Unlike Earth, Mars will not be a planet filled with countries, it will be a planet-country. Certainly, if Mars is ever terraformed then cultures and customs may come to vary just as they do when you move from a farm to a city on Earth. But the governmental, economic, and societal structure will be unified over the entire planet.

The economic structure of Mars will be long based on trading and bartering. Trade some carrots for some cabbage, or a potatoe for some water. The need to survive again working. As a Martian city arrives and not everyone is working to survive then currency will arrive. It will be digital from the very beginning. Mars will never adopt any kind of paper money. The technological aspect of Martian society will never require hard physical money.

Now, the biggest question is how Mars will trade and interact with Earth. Earth will be holding the leash of Mars for some time. Earth will provide the capital, technology, and transportation from the get-go.

As far as how much control Earth will exercise over Mars, it will be nominal. The only organizations to send colonies to Mars initially will be governments and non-profits. Even today much of the Mars movement is coming from foundations, and even Mars One will likely not turn a large profit. There is little commercial value in Mars.

But since those Earth organizations working to establish human presences on Mars are doing it for the sake of doing it they will not have any interest in the colony once it is established. While Britain wished to control the American colonies due to the value of it natural resources and taxes from residents, Mars will have no such resources since its population won't be able to grow as quickly as America did and it has no significant resources.

Once Martian society is established it will have one principle export. Its knowledge and technologies developed for agriculture. Mars will be a hotbed of agricultural and ecological innovation. Experiments and advances will be made due to lack of regulation and danger of negative affects to the barren environment. These advances will be needed on Earth as its population continues to grow. The need for more efficient food production and possibilities of climate control are all problems that will be tackled on Mars.

The great aspect of all of these technologies is that they are not material. They will not be hard goods but information. Information and knowledge can be transported very cheaply from Mars. It requires no rocket fuel just a little electricity. Martian exports will be the genetic designs and agricultural technology which allows that society to flourish on a planet ill-suited for it.

So to sum up. Mars will be a technologically advanced agrarian society which will be fiercely independent of Earth. Its citizens will have a myriad of backgrounds but will all be extremely talented and practical. Mars will form a planetary country and will trade agricultural advances with Earth for technological supplies.

This discussion and theorizing could turn into a book very easily. We have only done a poor job of scraping the surface of what a potential Martian society would be and much of it may never come to pass. But as the reality of a Martian society comes into view these topics will be important.

To read more about Martian trade possibilities read The Economic Viability of Mars Colonization by Robert Zubrin

Monday, July 13, 2015

Orbital Data Centers

Cloud computing is the idea of storing data on a server or having that server perform tasks so there is less load on your computer. But these servers are located in warehouses on Earth. They require large amounts of energy, they have a large footprint, and they have to transmit data over a distance to your computer.  What if server farms were placed into orbit? What if cloud computing occurred above the clouds?

Orbital server farms would have several benefits to their terrestrial counterparts. The first is power. In orbit there is an abundant supply of solar energy, twice as much as what enters our atmosphere and hits the ground. It is also possible to be in continuous sunlight. This provides a clean and inexhaustible power supply for the farm.

Next, there is an abundant amount of space in space. A server farm may grow as large or larger than any building on Earth with.

Last, concerning transmission time, space really is halfway to anywhere. Today and in the future satellite transmission will be common. The trip up and then back down takes only millionths of a second but that is very slow for a computer which works with billions of operations per second. Halving the distance of transmission by just sending information down, instead of up then down, would increase internet speeds.

But that is a far rosier picture than reality. While endless solar power is available in orbit it would still require huge arrays to power a server farm. The ISS solar array is the size of a football field and provides 110 kilowatts of energy, enough to power 55 houses. But a 55,000 square foot server farm on Earth uses 5 megawatts or enough to power 5000 homes. Clearly a development in space power systems will need to be built. But computing is becoming more efficient all the time so such power requirements may not remain standard.

Next, indeed a server farm may grow as large as it wishes in orbit. But with increased size comes increased weight and therefore higher launch costs. The cost of space launches would have to become a thousand times cheaper than the cheapest SpaceX launcher existing today in order to compete with terrestrial installment. However initial launch costs may be offset if lifetime power costs were lower due to orbital solar plants.

Last, while internet and communication speeds may be twice as fast by placing the servers in orbit this may not be a significant enough trade-off for the risks of creating such a facility. But Google and others are working on using satellites to provide internet connectivity to the world, adding a few servers to the satellites is not a great leap.

But perhaps the biggest problem of all to such facilities may be cooling. Servers become very hot and require constant removal of heat. But in space there are few options for heat removal. Heat can only leave by radiation. But a satellite using solar power is also constantly absorbing heat as thermal radiation. If a satellite also has a hot server farm at its center then a substantial thermal management problem arises.

Despite those challenges here is why such data centers will exist. Just as Google and Facebook are trying to provide internet connectivity to places where there is none, so to do they need to provide data storage and computation. Second, having large power hogging facilities in orbit will reduce the load on Earth power plants and not be in danger of blackouts while using the Sun's energy. Last, if humans go to Mars they will need computing power. But it makes no sense to attempt to land servers on Mars when they can perform just as well in orbit and perhaps provide services to multiple settlements. The same goes for the Moon. The effort of landing a sever farm on another body is to great when it can just be parked in orbit.

The latter scenarios may be where orbital computing systems begin. Providing computing resources to future Mars missions. Small server farms requiring nothing on the scale of terrestrial data centers could be created and then launched to support space missions. This is something that already has many engineering precedents in places like the ISS. It a project which is well within current technologies to achieve and could actually be built by a small firm or just a few people in a garage. From there such orbital data centers could follow a modular growth plan where new, self-contained modules are continuously combined to create ever large server farms which are able to finally provide meaningful quantities of computation to the world or other colonies.

Data centers in space are something which have potential and are currently feasible. However in order to scale them to compete with existing data centers in a substantial way requires growth and construction of other space resources. However, small scale orbital server farms can be created to support missions to other planets which will be coming in the next decades. Whether they will ever replace their cousins on the ground on Earth is unknowable until the industry develops more.