Bifrost is the phase where higher and higher volumes of material are transmitted both from the surface of the Earth outwards and from space inwards to the Earth's surface. Economies of scale and the economic pressure of needing easy access to locations above the atmosphere will continue to push the development of ships and craft that can get us there. The ultimate infrastructure in the Bifrost phase is the development of a Space Elevator, even multiple elevators scattered along the equator that will enable us to put more and more people, materials and facilities into orbit and beyond.
In the original TMP, Bifrost was a phase of development very focused on a single launch system project whose creation was intended to begin as soon as there was a sufficient infrastructure in the form of a collective community of marine colonies to afford it, marking a definitive ‘end’ to the Aquarius phase. Unfortunately, the mountaintop mass launcher concept Marshal Savage originally proposed proved technically unworkable even though the rationale behind it –the use of renewable energy to support access to space– was logical and remains key to the overall strategy of TMP development.
Today we envision Bifrost not so much as a specific sequential phase of development but as a space program that will likely see its start as early as the Foundation phase and remain concurrent well into the Asgard phase. It will be a particular obsession for the inhabitants of Aquarius marine colonies, the career focus for a very large portion of their population. And we realize now that it must explore and transition between a variety of launch technologies on it’s way to its ultimate technology, which we now identify in the form of the Space Elevator.
We also now foresee Bifrost as being a much more marine-based endeavor than Marshal Savage envisioned. Performing significant space development work on land is becoming increasingly difficult as populations expand and potential coastal locations for facilities disappear. NIMBYism real estate speculation, and politics are now all increasing obstructions to progress in space. Marine settlements have a great advantage in the pursuit of space activities because of their ready access to safe launch venues at sea and facilities locations right at a colony’s perimeter. But they do also suffer some limitations in the potential type of technology they can pursue due to the high cost of construction facilities such as large airstrips and the adaptations needed to accommodate marine launch.
Connection to AquariusEdit
Bifrost has a simple but critical objective tying it tightly to Aquarius; the development of a high volume launch capability relying on renewable energy. Marshal Savage was remarkably prescient in his observation that the energy demands of a comprehensive Earth-to-orbit transit system would far exceed the energy overhead of our current grossly wasteful civilization and thus demand the comprehensive development of a vast renewable energy infrastructure –which in TMP is embodied by Aquarius. This is an issue often overlooked in the field of space advocacy. The original Bifrost launch system concept accommodated this issue well by being electric powered. Renewable energy technologies tend to produce power in the form of electricity which, because of its limitations in portability, limit the design of systems greatly. Thus the most efficient launch technologies using such energy will tend to use electricity in the most direct way and in close proximity to where it is collected. This, in turn, involves propulsion technology diverging greatly from past trends in launch technology development and which currently exist in very nascent forms. Thus the Bifrost program faces a very protracted course of development on its way to this goal.
For a long time the relationship between Aquarius and Bifrost represented a point of contention for TMP, particularly with the realization of the infeasibility of the original Bifrost system concept. That seemed to imply that the notion of using electricity for propulsion was itself fundamentally flawed and that there was no logistical rational for the pursuit of the Aquarius phase at all. But with the realization of the imminent potential of Space Elevator technology, the relationship between sea and space is now clearer than ever before. The original Bifrost was physically separate from the communities of Aquarius. They only provided power and industrial resources. But the marine colony is now a necessary functional physical component of the robust Space Elevator –it’s Earth-terminus. And so we now understand Aquarius as the physical ‘host’ of Bifrost and the construction of the Space Elevator as a continuation of Aquarius development. It’s the closest point to space on Earth. The place you go in order to work in space and ultimately a terrestrial mirror of the first space settlements providing the parallel terrestrial homes for a spacefaring community that, until the advent of a clinical solution to ‘space wasting’, must cycle between earth and space residence.
As a space program, Bifrost will need to realize a comprehensive launch and orbital construction capability in order to conduct the construction of the Space Elevator. This need not be as efficient or support the volume of traffic as the ultimate full-scale Space Elevator itself. But it will need to rival anything that the current commercial space industry can offer. Starting in Foundation, this program would likely explore many minimalist vehicle system concepts early-on for primarily research benefit along its way to developing more robust and progressively larger ‘workhorse’ systems, most likely deriving from conventional rocket technology for some time. In the sub-section here we will look at a variety of possible launch technologies along the path to the Space Elevator.
- Mountain Waverider
- UltraLight SSTO
- Marine Mass Launcher - MML
- Bifrost Space Elevator
- Bifrost Support Systems