Macroeconomics is a branch of economics dealing with the performance, structure, behavior, and decision-making of an economy as a whole. This includes regional, national, and global economies. Planetary or galactic. Some of it is about supplying services (like spacecraft rental or cargo shipping), some is about manufacturing, some is about resource development (mining), and some is about space commerce and trading.
For our purposes, it is the study of how a solar system or galactic empire's interstellar economony works together as a whole. As opposed to the economy of a solitary tramp freighter merchant with a scratch crew.
World-building SF authors will be interested in such macroeconomic questions as is there an economic MacGuffinite that can start the industrialization of space, and what kind of economic trade wars can spark full-scale shooting wars.
In a near-future non-FTL-starship rocketpunk universe limited to the solar system, the interplanetary economy will have to be created mostly from scratch. Yes, the existing megacorporations of Terra will be the major players, but there is no existing infrastructure. Everything will have to be build from scratch, and it will be about as quiet and law-abiding as the mythical Wild West.
Are you a pedantic little s---? Do you ask questions like "Why does the Federation have starships if they can beam people hundreds of light-years?" or "Why don't the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance just mass-produce droids with piloting skills instead of risking their own lives?"
Well, good. So am I.
"Artemis" takes place in a city on the Moon. Lunar colonies in sci-fi usually have medium to high levels of bulls--- in their economics. Yeah, I know, nobody reads sci-fi for an economics lesson. But I want it to at least make sense.
So this paper is all about Artemis's economy and how it works. There are no spoilers for the story, so you can freely read it beforehand if you're the sort of person who likes bonus material so much you'll read it before you read the actual story.
Why isn't this in the book?
Because it's boring. Hell, if we learned anything from "The Phantom Menace" it's this: never start a sci-fi story with a description of complex macroeconomics.
You might not even make it through this paper. That's okay, it's not supposed to be entertaining. If you get bored, stop reading. This paper is for the one percenters — the folks who have nagging doubts in their suspension of belief because something sticks in their craw. I'm one of those people, and for me the economics has to make sense for a setting to work.
Price point>If you could have a lunar vacation for $70,000, would you do it? Many people would jump at the chance. They'd get a second mortgage just to pay for it. This, in a nutshell, is the economic foundation of Artemis. It's all about tourism, and it's based on the presumption that the price for that tourism can be driven down to the point that ordinary people can afford it.
The pricey part of anything space-related is getting it to space in the first place. It's incredibly expensive to put mass into LEO (Low Earth Orbit). And if you want to put something on the moon, you have to get a whole ship into LEO that can then travel to the moon. If that impediment were removed, or greatly reduced, we'd have a thriving space tourism industry.
My belief is that we are already on track to a commercial space industry that will do just that.
Money? What money?
I did the research for this in 2015, so all the monetary references in this paper refer to prices and values in 2015 US dollars.
Current cost to LEO
Before I talk about predictions, let's talk about reality. How much does it cost to put mass into LEO right now?
First off, I start with the assumption that this has to be an actual profitable system. Not something that only exists on government support or subsidy. So I'm disregarding launch systems that are government-run. They have no profit motive, so even if they charge for freight to LEO and even if that charge is low, those are not real economic values. The system would not scale or sustain itself.
The cheapest way to get mass to LEO (at the time of this writing) is with a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster. They charge $61.2 million for the launch, and it can put 13,150kg of mass into LEO. So right now, that means it costs $4,653 per kilogram.
Now you have some context for comparing the real world to the imagined one I'm about to show you.
My bulls--- assumption
I have absolutely nothing to back this up but instinct. But here it is, the core assumption I have made that enables the world of "Artemis."
Assumption: The commercial space industry, through competition and engineering advances, will settle down to the same fuel-to-overhead ratio as the modern airline industry.
Okay, so what do I mean by that? How did airlines get into this?
The airline industry is a good parallel for the space industry. Both involve transporting people and freight. Both require extremely expensive, complex vehicles with maintenance overhead. Both consume fuel.
So I have assumed, right or wrong, that a fully profitable commercial space industry would eventually become very much like the commercial airline industry. So let's look at the airline industry for some clues as to what things cost.
Fuel overhead ratio
Airlines need staff to fly and maintain their aircraft. They need to pay applicable taxes and gate fees. They need to buy new planes, repair worn-out parts, manage their company pension plan, and everything else a service industry has to do. But by far, the largest chunk of their non-payroll operating budget goes to fuel. That's what costs the most for any given flight.
So the question is this: What percentage of an airline's total revenues ultimately goes toward buying fuel? That's what we're going to work out first.
I have no special understanding of the airline industry. I just went online and did my own research. I looked at ticket prices, noted the price of jet fuel, etc. This could be wildly flawed, but it's a good place to start.
First off, I had to choose an aircraft to work with. I selected the Boeing 777-300ER. It's one of the most popular aircraft in the world, servicing long-haul flights be all the major airlines. It's fuel efficient, effective, and has a stellar safety record.
Here are some stats for the 777-300ER:
- Dry mass: 160,500 kg
- Fuel Burn Rate: 8,100 kg per hour
- Normal Configuration: 4 First Class seats, 56 Business Class seats, 292 Economy Class Seats
- High-end Configuration: 550 Economy Class seats
The next thing I did was look as some long-haul flights around the world. I wanted to get an even spread of information, so I looked at three different routes, of differing lengths, flown by three different airlines. A more comprehensive study would have to include dozens or maybe hundreds, but I just did three — I'm just trying to make a foundation for a story, not get investor money.
So, to that end, I looked at a United Airlines flight from New York to London, an Air France from Paris to Tokyo, and a Qantas flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. Each of these flights are on 777-300ER aircraft, and their ticket prices are all for the same day in late 2015. Note: the United flight prices are rough averages based on samples of different rates – their web page at the time was cagey on actual ticket prices.
Here's what I learned:
THE ECONOMICS OF INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS NY to London
Paris to Tokyo
LA to Sydney
Duration 8 hours 11.58333 hours 15.333 hours First class ticket price $4,000 $3,326 $10,240 Business class ticket price $1,200 $1,835 $3,140 Economy ticket price $350 $463 $547 Total take per flight $185,400 $250,968 $376,524 Fuel consumed 64,800 kg 93,824.973 kg 124,197.3 kg Fuel cost $30,780 $44,567 $58,993 Fuel overhead 16.60% 17.76% 15.67%
For each flight, I noted the price of each class of ticket, then worked out the take — the total amount of money the airline gets if every seat on the plane is sold at its listed cost. The fuel consumed is based on the flight duration and the fuel consumption rate of the aircraft. The cost of that fuel is based on the market price of jet fuel on the day I looked up those tickets, which was $0.475/kg. (Actually, the price was 38 cents per liter, but I wanted price per kg and jet fuel has a density of 0.8kg/L).
I was surprised to see that they all has such similar fuel overhead ratios. It makes me feel like my crackpot theory might actually work out.
Yeah, I don't have enough data, but screw it. I'm going to use the value 16.5%, which is roughly the average of those three. So for the rest of this paper I'll assume a commercial airline spends 16.5% of its take on fuel.
A commercial spacecraft
Okay, great. I have a rough idea of fuel overhead. So what? What the hell would an efficient commercial spacecraft be like? What would it weigh? How many people could it carry? What would it use for fuel and how much would that fuel cost?
I don't have answers to any of that, of course. So I'll just pull a couple more assumptions right out of my ass.
Assumption: A passenger spacecraft would weigh the same as a passenger aircraft capable of carrying the same number of people.
Okay, yeah. That's a big assumption. But, to be clear, I'm talking about dry weight (not including fuel). And aircraft are pretty similar to spacecraft in a lot of ways. They're pressure vessels, they have life support systems to keep everyone on board alive, they have big heavy engines, pilots, etc. So that's what I'm going with.
And for my comparison I'll use, of course, the Boeing 777-300ER. Same as before. I'm also assuming this is a trip to a transfer ship or space station. So the spacecraft itself doesn't have to serve as home to the passengers. All it does is get them to orbit. This means there's really no need for first class at all. The 12-minute trip to orbit does not require high-end seating for anyone. So instead of its normal configuration, I'm going with the high-density version that can seat 550 people.
And now on to the final bit of guesswork.
Assumption: The commercial space industry will use hydrogen-oxygen fuel
The thing that matters most about rocket fuel is a property called "specific impulse." I don't want to bore you with physics (I'm here to bore you with economics) so I'll just say this: specific impulse is a measure of how efficient a rocket fuel is. The higher a fuel's specific impulse, the less of it you need to get a ship moving a given velocity. And hydrogen-oxygen fuel has the best specific impulse known. Also, it creates water as its exhaust, so there are no pollutants. And finally, it's cheap to produce.
Right now, there are engineering limitations to using hydrogen-oxygen fuel. The main one being that it burns very hot — hotter than any engine can handle. But again, I'm assuming all these challenges get researched and solved by a profit-hungry industry.
The final piece of the puzzle is the cost of hydrogen and oxygen. This was a little harder to find. I was able to find reliable data on the 2002 price of bulk hydrogen, so I adjusted the 2002 dollars into 2015 dollars and got $0.93/kg. As for oxygen, I used the publicly available data on what NASA pays for it — $0.16/kg in 2015 dollars. The reaction requires one part hydrogen and eight parts oxygen (by mass), so the total fuel cost is $0.245/kg.
That's the last bit of information we needed to calculate the…
Price of getting a person into space
Okay, we have a ship that weighs 165,500kg and we're going to put 550 passengers on it. We'll give them 100kg each for their bodies and luggage. That's a total mass of 215,500kg.
The specific impulse of hydrogen-oxygen fuel is 389s (yes, the unit for measuring specific impulse is "seconds". It makes no intuitive sense, just roll with it). To get to LEO you need to accelerate by 9,800m/s. LEO actually only requires 7,800m/s, but you lose around 2,000m/s during the ascent to air resistance and other inefficiencies.
Again, I'm skipping over the physics (Tsiolkovsky's Rocket Equation, if you're curious) but those numbers mean we'll need 12.04kg of fuel for every 1kg we want to put into LEO. We want to put 215,000kg into LEO, so we need 2,594,620kg of fuel.
At our calculated fuel cost ($0.245/kg) that means the total fuel cost for the launch is $637,200.
Now I get to use my airline fuel overhead figure. Airlines have 16.5% fuel overhead ratio and we're going to assume the space industry will as well. So $637,109 is 16.5% of our total ticket take. And that means our total take is $3,861,266.
Our ship carries 550 passengers, meaning each passenger will have to pay
Sorry to put that in dramatic bold print, but I thought it was exciting. Would you pay seven thousand bucks to go to low Earth orbit? Millions of people would say "yes."
What about freight?
I looked around at the prices for air freight and found that, on average, you can air mail 200kg of cargo for about the price it would take to send a person. This means people cost twice as much to ship as cargo. That makes sense — cargo doesn't need seats, air pressure, bathrooms, or complimentary peanuts. For space travel, the cargo ships also wouldn't need anywhere near as much safety. If a shipment of frozen food blows up on launch, replacing the cargo is trivial.
So I followed the aviation industry's general pattern and decided that freight to LEO would end up costing about half as much as a human. Or, more importantly, would cost $7,020.48 per 200kg. So that means you can get mass to LEO for
$35.10 per kg!
Again, I apologize for the drama, but holy s---! That's a hell of a lot less than the $4,653/kg it costs today.
Are such advances reasonable? Well, "Artemis" takes place in the 2080s, which is over 60 years from the time of this writing. Consider the advancements in the aviation industry from its beginnings in the 1930s to the 1990s. Yes, it's possible. When enough money is up for grabs, anything's possible.
What about getting from LEO to the Moon?
Okay, so we have people and cargo in LEO. So what? We want them on the Moon. Well, here's where things bifurcate.
To get people to the Moon, they would make lunar cyclers. These are space hotels in a ballistic orbit (meaning: it doesn't require fuel to maintain) that regularly visits Earth and the Moon. It would take 7 days to get to the Moon with this system. You still have to accelerate the people to catch up with the space hotel, but at least you don't have to accelerate the hotel itself over and over. So the fuel cost is minimized.
It's hard to say how much that would cost. But with a $35.10/kg cost to LEO, the mass of the hotel wouldn't be too much of a financial burden for whatever company built it. I admit I didn't work out the economics of the space hotel or what it would cost for your stay. But considering how cheap the cost of freight to LEO is, I'm sure it would be small compared to the rest of the trip. On the order of an actual hotel stay (and a hell of a lot more awesome).
But you still have to accelerate people up to the cycler and then decelerate them to land on the Moon.
According to my research, it takes a total of 5,930m/s of delta-v to get from LEO to the surface of the Moon. More physics and math happens here, but it means that for every kilogram of cargo you want to put on the lunar surface, you have to put 4.73kg of mass into LEO. 1kg of actual cargo, and 3.73kg of fuel to get that cargo to the Moon.
So what's it cost to put freight on the Moon? Well, it would cost 4.73 times what it would cost to put the cargo in LEO. So, while it costs $35.10 to put a kilogram into LEO, it would cost $166.02 to put it on the surface of the Moon.
You have to get your body to LEO ($7020), and then soft-landed on the moon. So you end up needing the same overhead – 4.73 times the LEO cost.
Yeah, I did the bold thing again. Call the cops, I don't care. People would be very willing to pay $33,000 for a trip to the Moon.
What about the trip back? Well, it's much cheaper, because you're leaving the Moon's gravity, not Earth's. Plus, you don't have to use rocket fuel to dump velocity at Earth — you can use the atmosphere to brake with. And you would probably also be using fuel generated on the Moon (aluminum and oxygen, both in massive supply on the Moon, make a good monopropellant), so even it wouldn't have to be imported.
I didn't do the math on the return trip, but let's approximate it to half the trip out. So the round-trip is clocking in at about $45,000 (not including a total of 14 days' stay in the space hotel).
What does it cost to stay on the Moon?
You have to eat. You can eat Gunk if you want — that's a product created right in Artemis out of algae. It's nutritionally balanced and grown locally, so it's nice and cheap. But if you want real food, you'll have to eat imports. A typical person will eat 500 to 1000 grams of food per day (not including the water weight). We've established that lunar freight costs about $166/kg. So you'll spend $80 to $160 every day just to eat. Not bad for an extravagant vacation.
Accommodation and meal prices would be comparable to high-end hotels and restaurants on Earth. Say $160/day for food and $500/day for a hotel. Of course you'll want to do stuff while you're there, which will cost more money. So call it $800/day.
However long you want to stay on the moon, add 14 days (for the space hotel that takes you there and back) and multiply by $800. That's your expenses on the trip itself. So let's say you want a two-week stay. That's a total of 28 days of expenses at $800, so $22,400. Round that up to $25,000 because vacations always cost more than you expect. That plus the $45,000 travel costs totals $70,000.
So I ask again: Would you pay $70,000 for a lunar vacation?
Crewed starflight is going to be expensive, really expensive. All the various proposed methods from slow world ships to faster fusion vessels require huge resources to build and fuel. Even at Apollo levels of funding in the 1960’s, an economy growing at a fast clip of 3% per year is estimated to need about half a millennium of sustained growth to afford the first flights to the stars. It is unlikely that planet Earth can sustain such a sizable economy that is millions of times larger than today’s. The energy use alone would be impossible to manage. The implication is that such a large economy will likely be solar system wide, exploiting the material and energy resources of the system with extensive industrialization.
Economies grow by both productivity improvements and population increases. We are fairly confident that Earth is likely nearing its carrying capacity and certainly cannot increase its population even 10-fold. This implies that such a solar system wide economy will need huge human populations living in space. The vision has been illustrated by countless SciFi stories and perhaps popularized by Gerry O’Neill who suggested that space colonies were the natural home of a space faring species. John Lewis showed that the solar system has immense resources to exploit that could sustain human populations in the trillions.
But now we run into a problem. Even with the most optimistic estimates of reduced launch costs, and assuming people want to go and live off planet probably permanently, the difficulties and resources needed to develop this economy will make the US colonization by Europeans seem like a walk in the park by comparison. No doubt it can be done, but our industrial civilization is little more than a quarter of a millennium old. Can we sustain the sort of growth we have had on Earth for another 500 years, especially when it means leaving behind our home world to achieve it? Does this mean that our hopes of vastly larger economies, richer lives for our descendents and an interstellar future for humans is just a pipe dream, or at best a slow grind that might get us there if we are lucky?
Well, there may be another path to that future. Philip Metzger and colleagues have suggested that such a large economy can be developed. More extraordinary, that such an economy can be built quickly and without huge Earth spending, starting and quickly ending with very modest space launched resources. Their suggestion is that the technologies of AI and 3D printing will drive a robotic economy that will bootstrap itself quickly to industrialize the solar system. Quickly means that in a few decades, the total mass of space industrial assets will be in the millions of tonnes and expanding at rates far in excess of our Earth-based economies.
The authors ask, can we solve the launch cost problem by using mostly self-replicating machines instead? This should remind you of the von Neumann replicating probe concept. Their idea is to launch seed factories of almost self-replicating robots to the Moon. The initial payload is a mere 8 tonnes. The robots will not need to be fully autonomous at this stage as they can be teleoperated from Earth due to the short 2.5 second communication delay. They are not fully self-replicating at this stage as need for microelectronics is best met with shipments from Earth. Almost complete self-replication has already been demonstrated with fabs, and 3D printing promises to extend the power of this approach.
The authors assume that initial replication will neither be fully complete, nor high fidelity. They foresee the need for Earth to ship the microelectronics to the Moon as the task of building fabs is too difficult. In addition, the materials for new robots will be much cruder than the technology earth can currently deliver, so that the next few generations of robots and machinery will be of poorer technology than the initial generation. However the quality of replication will improve with each generation and by generation 4, a mere 8 years after starting, the robot technology will be at the initial level of quality, and the industrial base on the Moon should be large enough to support microelectronics fabs. From then on, replication closure is complete and Earth need ship no further resources to the Moon.
Gen Human/Robotic Interaction Artificial Intelligence Scale of Industry Materials Manufactured Source of Electronics 1.0 Teleoperated and/or locally operated by a human outpost Insect-like Imported, small-scale, limited diversity Gases, water, crude alloys, ceramics, solar cells Import fully integrated machines 2.0 Teleoperated Lizard-like Crude fabrication, inefficient, but greater throughput than 1.0 (Same) Import electronics boxes 2.5 Teleoperated Lizard-like Diversifying processes, especially volatiles and metals Plastics, rubbers, some chemicals Fabricate crude components plus import electronics boxes 3.0 Teleoperated with experiments in autonomy Lizard-like Larger, more complex processing plants Diversify chemicals, simple fabrics, eventually polymers Locally build PC cards, chassis and simple components, but import the chips 4.0 Closely supervised autonomy Mouse-like Large plants for chemicals, fabrics, metals Sandwiched and other advanced material processes Building larger assets such as lithography machines 5.0 Loosely supervised autonomy Mouse-like Labs and factories for electronics and robotics. Shipyards to support main belt. Large scale production Make chips locally. Make bots in situ for export to asteroid belt. 6.0 Nearly full autonomy Monkey-like Large-scale, self-supporting industry, exporting industry to asteroid main belt Makes all necessary materials, increasing sophistication Makes everything locally, increasing sophistication X.0 Autonomous robotics pervasive throughout Solar System enabling human presence Human-like Robust exports/imports through zones of solar system Material factories specialized by zone of the Solar System Electronics factories in various locations
Table 1. The development path for robotic space industrialization. The type of robots and the products created are shown. Each generation takes about 2 years to complete. Within a decade, chip fabrication is initiated. By generation 6, full autonomy is achieved.
Asset Qty. per set Mass minus Electronics (kg) Mass of Electronics (kg) Power (kW) Feedstock Input (kg'hr) Product Output (kg/hr) Power Distrib & Backup 1 2000 ----- ---- ---- ---- Excavators (swarming) 5 70 19 0.30 20 ---- Chem Plant 1 - Gases 1 733 30 5.58 4 1.8 Chem Plant 2 - Solids 1 733 30 5.58 10 1.0 Metals Refinery 1 1019 19 10.00 20 3.15 Solar Cell Manufacturer 1 169 19 0.50 0.3 ---- 3D Printer 1 - Small Parts 4 169 19 5.00 0.5 0.5 3D Printer 2 - Large Parts 4 300 19 5.00 0.5 0.5 Robonaut assemblers 3 135 15 0.40 ---- ---- Total per Set ~7.7 MT
launched to Moon
64.36 kW 20 kg
Table 2. The products and resources needed to bootstrap the industrialization of the Moon with robots. Note the low mass needed to start, a capability already achievable with existing technology. For context, the Apollo Lunar Module had a gross mass of over 15 tonnes on landing.
The authors test their basic model with a number of assumptions. However the conclusions seem robust. Assets double every year, more than an order of magnitude faster than Earth economic growth.
Once robots become sophisticated enough, with sufficient AI and full self-replication, they can leave the Moon and start industrializing the asteroid belt. This could happen a decade after initiation of the project.
With the huge resources that we know to exist, robot industrialization would rapidly, within decades not centuries, create more manufactures by many orders of magnitude than Earth has. Putting this growth in context, after just 50 years of such growth, the assets in space would require 1% of the mass of the asteroid belt, with complete use within the following decade. Most importantly, those manufactures, outside of Earth’s gravity well, require no further costly launches to transmute into useful products in space. O’Neill colonies popped out like automobiles? Trivial. The authors suggest that one piece could be the manufacture of solar power satellites able to supply Earth with cheap, non-polluting power, in quantities suitable for environmental remediation and achieving a high standard of living for Earth’s population.
With such growth, seed factories travel to the stars and continue their operation there, just as von Neumann would predict with his self-replicating probes. Following behind will be humans in starships, with habitats already prepared by their robot emissaries. All this within a century, possibly within the lifetime of a Centauri Dreams reader today.
Is it viable? The authors believe the technology is available today. The use of telerobotics staves off autonomous robots for a decade. In the 4 years since the article was written, AI research has shown remarkable capabilities that might well increase the viability of this aspect of the project. It will certainly need to be ready once the robots leave the Moon to start extracting resources in the asteroid belt and beyond.
The vision of machines doing the work is probably comfortable. It is the fast exponential growth that is perhaps new. From a small factory launched from Earth, we end up with robots exploiting resources that dwarf the current human economy within a lifetime of the reader.
The logic of the model implies something the authors do not explore. Large human populations in space to use the industrial output of the robots in situ will need to be launched from Earth initially. This will remain expensive unless we are envisaging the birthing of humans in space, much as conceived for some approaches to colonizing the stars. Alternatively an emigrant population will need to be highly reproductive to fill the cities the robots have built. How long will that take? Probably far longer, centuries, rather than the decades of robotic expansion.
Another issue is that the authors envisage the robots migrating to the stars and continuing their industrialization there. Will humans have the technology to follow, and if so, will they continue to fall behind the rate at which robots expand? Will the local star systems be full of machines, industriously creating manufactures with only themselves to use them? And what of the development of AI towards AGI, or Artificial General Intelligence? Will that mean that our robots become the inevitable dominant form of agency in the galaxy?
The paper is Metzger, Muscatello, Mueller & Mantovani, “Affordable, Rapid Bootstrapping of the Space Industry and Solar System Civilization,” Journal of Aerospace Engineering Volume 26 Issue 1 (January 2013). Abstract / Preprint.
As I've mentioned so many times you must be sick of it, in the California Gold Rush of 1849, it was not the miners who grew rich, instead it was the merchants who sold supplies to the miners. Once people are traveling in space, there will arise numerous business opportunities to sell things to traveling people.
Please note that none of these are MacGuffinite, they are not economic motivation for the colonization and industrialization of space. But once there are people in space, they become potential customers.
Science fiction authors should note that the presence of these various spacegoing corporations can lead to a very colorful background for their novels. Indeed, the history of how a given corporation got started could be an interesting series of stories. Things are raw and cut-throat on the space frontier, especially when the people starting the company are novices learning the ropes the hard way. Hilarity ensues, and your readers will be fascinated.
This is more a near-future business. Which means it could be a MacGuffinite precursor.
In the present time the biggest space industry is satellites. These are mostly of the communication variety (telecommunication, radio, television, phone, internet access), but navigation, weather, and crop monitoring are also viable industries. Not to mention all the military spy satellites.
These suckers are hideously expensive to design, build, and launch into orbit. Obviously the longer their effective lifespan, the more the owner can amortised the cost.
What limits the satellite's lifespan? Is it meteorite strikes? No. Is it deterioraization due to space radiation? No. Is it electronic malfunctions? No. Well, what is it? The blasted fuel tanks for the attitude control jets being used up! And the little darlings generally run dry years before anything else on the satellite zaps out.
Gee, it is a shame there exists no company running satellite orbit-side servicing like an outer space Triple-A, filling empty attitude-jet fuel-tanks and repairing malfunctions. They could charge huge fees without being more expensive than launching an entire new replacement satellite.
Sounds like a business opportunity to me.
This was the inspiration for the 1988 MOVERS Orbital Transfer Vehicle study. More recently (2017) the Space Infrastructure Services LLC (SIS) company proposed a similar service, using teloperated drones. Now please understand that their drones can only refuel SIS designed satellites, but they probably consider that to be an advantage.
Remember that once you get to orbit you are halfway to anywhere. So a company offering an affordable way to get your payload and crew into orbit will find their services in high demand. The point is that a laser launch service is likely to be much cheaper than any chemical rocket will ever be. Freeman Dyson is of the opinion that a large country such as the United States should invest in such a service and offer it at a nominal fee, in order to promote interplanetary Prairie Schooners. See below.
Jerry Pournelle foresees that with the availability of a laser launch service coupled with affordable habitat modules could lead to wagon train in space. Details here.
Entrepreneurs could sell habitat module services between Terra and Mars by making a space-going motel into an Aldrin Cycler. Space explorers on a budget would only need enough delta V to get themselves and their payload up to Mars transfer velocity, they could then rent a room and life-support services at Motel 6 km/s. This concept is quite similar to the Wagon Train in Space.
Spacecraft going to a given destination, e.g., Mars, will tend to clump into convoys in order to take advantage of Hohmann transfer windows. Clever operators will have special ships in the group: not to travel to Mars but to do business with the other ships in the group (with an eye to making lots of money).
Things like being an interplanetary 7-Eleven all night convenience store, selling those vital little necessities (that you forgot to pack) at inflated prices.
A fancy restaurant spaceship for when you are truly fed up with eating those nasty freeze-dried rations.
A space-going showboat for outer space riverboat gambling.
An (expensive) health clinic, when you are not sure if that is merely a tummy-ache or actually full-blown appendicitis.
Not to mention a orbital brothel.
Fans of TOS Battlestar Galactica will be reminded of the Rising Star, luxury liner and casino in space.
And the owners of an wagon train in space might want to add a couple of these company-owned modules, to sell stuff to the wagon train riders.
Orbital laser services might be just as lucrative as laser launching services. Owners of cheap laser thermal rockets could rent laser time from Beams-Я-Us. Not to mention spacecoach owners. You could probably even rent the cheap laser thermal rockets for use with the laser time.
For that matter, Beams-Я-Us would probably have their own cargo laser rockets for transport services, making them the interplanetary equivalent of the railroad (The Laser Horse). Even if there is no initial need for such services, a government might create it for political reasons. Even if it is eventually taken over by the military.
A laser railroad could easily become Wagon Train in Space.
Go here for technical details on laser thrust services.
The multi-billion dollar Terran petroleum industry is a model for offering the services of orbital propellant depots. Since propellant is the sine qua non of rockets, owning a network of such depots and the supplying them by in situ resource utilization will be a license to print money.
There is also money to be made on the side by being the interplantary equivalent of a 7-Eleven convenience store attached to a gasoline station. With the same inflated prices.
Rob Davidoff and I worked up a science fiction background where the Martian moon Deimos becomes the water supplier for the entire solar system. We call it Cape Dread.
These are giant spinning bola-like tether propulsion installations. A pod with engines not much stronger than attitude jets can attach itself to one and be precisely catapulted at a destination with many gravities of acceleration. At the destination the pod is caught by a similar installation. All for a fee, of course.
These would work well with interplanetary Prairie Schooners.
Laser Launching is a remarkable inexpensive way to get payload into LEO (aka "Halfway to Anywhere"). Unfortunately it requires lots of money for creating the initial facillity.
Genius Freeman Dyson believes it would be a good investment for a country such as the United States to build a laser-launch site and charge a modest fee to anybody who wanted to boost a payload into orbit. Such as Maw & Paw asteroid mining businesses. This is similar to the political motivation behind the US transcontinental railroad mentioned here.
An affordable space-going version of a Prairie Schooner could be purchased by private individuals, boosted into orbit for a modest fee by laser launch, then another modest fee to an ion-drive tug to join the wagon train to Luna, Mars, or the Asteroid belt. LEO is halfway to anywhere, remember? This would also allow grizzled old asteroid miners to go prospecting in the belt.
For a possible space-going Prairie Schooner, take a look at the Spacecoach concept.
Jerry Pournelle foresees that with the availability of a laser launch service coupled with affordable habitat modules could lead to wagon train in space. Which should bring a big grin to the face of any science fiction author trying to find a plausible reason to write novels about asteroid miners and homesteaders living in the solar system.
Maw and Paw pioneers/rock-rats/space-entrepreneurs just need the price of a hab module (i.e., Prairie Schooner) and laser boost fees for the overhead of space access. This gets them into LEO. Yes, in theory they can boost their hab module using something like an SpaceX style reusable chemical rocket instead of laser launching, but that is liable to be much more expensive. This entire concept hinges on some method to drive surface-to-orbit cargo cost down to the point where almost anybody can afford them.
In a future where the industrialization of space has advanced even further, hab modules and all the other equipment needed for space homesteading will be manufactured in space (i.e., outside of Terra's gravity well and its expensive 7.6 km/sec delta-V cost). So all Maw and Paw will need are tickets for themselves and any children on a Pan Am Space Clipper passenger shuttle flight into orbit (plus a full bank account). Or steerage-class tickets to ride in the payload bay of a cargo rocket (or laser launch capsule) lying on lumpy shipping crates while wearing space suits. Once in orbit they will purchase a hab module all needed equipment from orbital factories, avoiding the monstrous shipping charge of boosting all that mass from Terra's surface. From a science fiction author's standpoint, this just replaces a huge investment in laser launching with an even huger investment in orbital manufacturing. With a bonus of political tension as the laser launch companies angrily watch their business fall in lockstep with the rise in orbital manufacturing. That will supply the author with some dramatic plots.
Once in orbit with their hab, all Maw and Paw need (besides supplies for their business model) is transport for their hab module, to get it to the asteroid belt or whatever the plan is. Possible business models include asteroid mining, peddler, tinker, cobbler, boomtown store, and camp following. Maw and Paw con artists can try their hand at selling interplanetary snake oil. Or maybe just founding a space settlement. It's American Pioneer days all over again.
So Maw and Paw get to go homesteading among the asteroids, and the science fiction author gets a reasonably bullet-proof justification for a rocketpunk background for their novels. Sounds like a win-win to me.
There are several options to transport Maw and Paw in their hab module to their desired destination.
For an interplanetary Prairie Schooners owned by a Maw-and-Paw company, momentum-energy banks dovetail nicely with laser launch services. It doesn't matter that your tin-can habitat module has the same delta V as a can of underarm deodorant spray. The laser will boost it into orbit and the bola will sling it to the destination. The limits are [a] you can only travel between momentum-energy banks installations and [b] do you have enough money to pay for the bola services? [c] is the acceleration low enough so it won't instantly kill Maw and Paw? Momentum banks for raw cargo will probably accelerate it at levels far above lethal, ones rated for 100% fully healthy Mom and Pop will have to keep under 30 gs for no more than 10 minutes.
They will have orbital tugs for hire, with regularly scheduled service to haul hab modules to various interplanetary destinations. The tugs could probably haul long strings of hab modules at a time like an outer-space train, especially if the tugs had a water-skiing thruster arrangement. Wagon train indeed!
The tug would probably also haul a company emergency module. If one of the hab modules springs a leak or otherwise has an emergency, the company module could rescue them. In exchange for a stiff fee, of course. In the wild west, wagon trains were mostly for mutual assistance, so the inhabitants of the various hab modules would probably want to try and help each other. Only if nobody offers any help would the unlucky Maw and Paw have to mortgage their souls to the company emergency module.
Orbital laser services could rent Maw and Paw a cheap laser thermal rocket engine (with a stiff deposit fee, refundable upon return of the engine). Bolt it to the hab module, set up payment transfers to Beams-Я-Us service department, and you are good to go.
Beams-Я-Us probably also has a Laser Horse or two: the laser equivalent of a choo-choo train. This would operate in the same manner as the Wagon Train Company, substituting a Beams-Я-Us laser thermal orbital tug.
In theory Maw and Paw could use an Aldrin Cycler to transport their prairie schooner. In practice it is more expensive. Remember that Cyclers are just clever ways to avoid the necessity of spending the delta-V expense on your life-support system, instead using the system on the cycler. You still have to spend the delta-V to get Maw and Paw and their payload up to Asteroid Belt Transfer Velocity. But wait, you have to spend it on the life-support system in the hab module, so you ain't saving any money. This only makes sense if you are planning on just transporting your bodies to the belt and purchasing your hab module, supplies, and equipment in the belt. Maw and Paw better check prices on hab modules in cis-Lunar space and compare them to asteroid belt prices before they try this stunt.
If Maw and Paw have lots of money, they might purchase a real spacecraft instead of just a habitat module plus renting transport. A Spacecoach with a Water Wall would do nicely. This would be required if the business model necessitates mobility, e.g, chasing boomtowns or following camps.
But even though they now have no need of transportation services, it might make sense for them to travel along with a Convoy Services flotilla or shadowing a Wagon Train. Just in case Maw or Paw suddenly needs the services of the company emergency module...
Chances are good that most of the transport options noted above may have Convoy Services tagging along, like vultures. Just in case Maw and Paw might suddenly desperately need something, and is willing to shell out for inflated prices. A Wagon Train Company may very well covertly include some of their own convoy services modules in the train, outside of the standard emergency services module. Maw and Paw don't need to know that the Wagon Train tug, emergency module, and all the Convoy Services flotilla all belong to the same company.
After they arrive and start working their homestead it won't be long before Maw and Paw are visited by the peddlers, tinkers, cobblers, and the arrival of the latest catalog from Sears Robot & co. And the snake-oil salesmen of course.
So all the science fiction author has to do is postulate a drastically cheap method of boosting payload from Terra's surface, and in exchange receive justification for an industrialized and colonized solar system background. Plus the option of using the huge library of cowboy-and-westerns literature about pioneers for plot inspirations.
Oh, I'm sure you've seen this trope with media associated with the North American frontier. The peddler / Yankee trader / tinker traveling from pioneer homestead to homestead, selling the little necessities and luxuries.
But as I've mentioned many times before, futurologists and science fiction writers can save themselves tons of work by remembering that everything old is new again. The North American frontier is dead and gone, but roughly the same situation could arise in the future. I'm thinking about mom-and-pop asteroid mining operation and pioneers colonizing interstellar planets.
All three groups advance into wilderness areas with no infrastructure nor shopping malls. All of them need tools and items for survival, and certain luxuries that make life bearable. Any entrepreneur worthy of the title can see this is a business opportunity.
Now, there are differences. Peddlers in North America could travel by foot, carrying their wares on their backs. They could also obtain their wares at a modest cost. This made the trade attractive to beginner businesspeople with strong legs but little starting capital. However, a interplanetary peddler selling things to asteroid miners are going to need a space suit and a space taxi at a minimum (though the latter could indeed be jury rigged out of stuff from the spaceship junkyard). If the peddler is traveling from star colony to star colony they have to have some kind of starship. This raises the bar for entry into the business, but the bar has already been raised for the pioneer star colonists. If they can afford the interstellar transport fee, so can the peddler.
The pioneer people were also eager for any hot-and-juicy gossip the peddler could bring from the last villiage they were at. Interstellar colonists might already know all the news by virtue of their jury-rigged internet.
And of course some peddlers were con artists. That ain't gonna change in the future, not without drastic changes in human personality.
Frontier peddlers in history would often find their stock boxes growing heavier as they sold stuff. This is because many of the pioneers had no money, so they had to pay with crops, food, honey, or other barter. The peddler would lug all this barter back to more civilized regions and sell it. Asteroid peddlers would probably have to be paid in asteroid ore.
Readers who are rich with years will remember the wearisome number of jokes on the topic of the traveling salesman and the farmer's daughter. The "traveling salesman" was a peddler.
Closely related is the profession of Tinker. North American pioneers had very little money, so they could not afford to replace a broken household utensil. The tinker would use low-tech methods with inexpensive or free local materials to make the repair. To fix a hole in a pan, the tinker would make a "tinker's dam" out of clay, mud, or dough. The tinker would then pour some molten solder into the dam, which would solidify and mend the hole. The tinker's dam would be removed and thrown away, since it is literally "not worth a tinker's dam."
So in the future, Asteroid Dan: the Tinker Man would travel to Maw and Paw Kessler asteroid mine to glue together their broken antiquated laser drill. And have to be OK with being paid in fresh asteroid ore instead of cash.
Now, if times get tough (or if you are trying to take advantage of alien technology), a tinker could graduate into becoming a Cobbler.
Maw and Paw Kessler have a problem repairing their broken laser drill due to a lack of money, NOT a lack of technology. The tech is available, assuming you have coin.
If the technology become unavailable, that's when the tinkers will have to become cobblers. A tinker tries to repair broken parts. A cobbler tries to replace a broken part with some locally available equivalent.
For instance: a tinker welds together a cracked gear. A cobbler deals with a sudden absence of automobile gasoline by altering the car to run on methane (compress methane boiled off by stable-dung, and plumb a gas-supply into the induction manifold using scrap tubing and insulated tape).
Why would the technology become unavailable? Many reasons. A sudden zombie apocalypse. The galactic empire descends into the Long Night. Or if you are a combat archeologist trying to fix some million-year old alien paleotechnology, where the alien repair parts also became unavailable a million years ago.
While most of the scams are optimised for urban dwelling victims, many work well in a frontier setting.
Wild west TV shows and movies often feature the classic Medicine Show scam where mountebanks and quacks distract the crowd with entertainers while peddling their worthless miracle elixir cure-alls and snake oils. Change the labels to "alien serums" or "nanotech breakthroughs" and you are good to go.
The old "salting a mine" trick should work perfectly well on gullible asteroid miners.
Colonists facing crop failure in the face of adverse weather are ripe for the ancient Rain making scam.
My question is what happens to such a colony who relies upon off-world trading if the trade is cut off? Is this a minor inconvenience or does it cause a major recession that crashes the entire planetary economy?
That question is above my pay grade, but I suspect that either outcome is plausible enough for an author to utilize it in their novel.
Such interruptions can happen due to trade embargoes, blocades by hostile starfleets, a planetary quarantine imposed to stop the interstellar spread of a planetary pandemic, or by the decline and fall of the galactic empire.
As a side note: if a trade cut-off is an economic disaster, a planetary government will be tempted to cover up any news of a planetary pandemic.
The law of comparative advantage describes how, under free trade, an agent will produce more of and consume less of a good for which they have a comparative advantage.
In an economic model, agents have a comparative advantage over others in producing a particular good if they can produce that good at a lower relative opportunity cost or autarky price, i.e. at a lower relative marginal cost prior to trade. Comparative advantage describes the economic reality of the work gains from trade for individuals, firms, or nations, which arise from differences in their factor endowments or technological progress. (One should not compare the monetary costs of production or even the resource costs (labor needed per unit of output) of production. Instead, one must compare the opportunity costs of producing goods across countries).
David Ricardo developed the classical theory of comparative advantage in 1817 to explain why countries engage in international trade even when one country's workers are more efficient at producing every single good than workers in other countries. He demonstrated that if two countries capable of producing two commodities engage in the free market, then each country will increase its overall consumption by exporting the good for which it has a comparative advantage while importing the other good, provided that there exist differences in labor productivity between both countries. Widely regarded as one of the most powerful yet counter-intuitive insights in economics, Ricardo's theory implies that comparative advantage rather than absolute advantage is responsible for much of international trade.
Classical theory and David Ricardo's formulation
If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it off them with some part of the produce of our own industry employed in a way in which we have some advantage. The general industry of the country, being always in proportion to the capital which employs it, will not thereby be diminished [...] but only left to find out the way in which it can be employed with the greatest advantage.
Writing several decades after Smith in 1808, Robert Torrens articulated a preliminary definition of comparative advantage as the loss from the closing of trade:
[I]f I wish to know the extent of the advantage, which arises to England, from her giving France a hundred pounds of broadcloth, in exchange for a hundred pounds of lace, I take the quantity of lace which she has acquired by this transaction, and compare it with the quantity which she might, at the same expense of labour and capital, have acquired by manufacturing it at home. The lace that remains, beyond what the labour and capital employed on the cloth, might have fabricated at home, is the amount of the advantage which England derives from the exchange.
In 1817, David Ricardo published what has since become known as the theory of comparative advantage in his book On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.
In a famous example, Ricardo considers a world economy consisting of two countries, Portugal and England, each producing two goods of identical quality. In Portugal, the a priori more efficient country, it is possible to produce wine and cloth with less labor than it would take to produce the same quantities in England. However, the relative costs or ranking of cost of producing those two goods differ between the countries.
Hours of work necessary to produce one unit ProduceCountry Cloth Wine England 100 120 Portugal 90 80
In this illustration, England could commit 100 hours of labor to produce one unit of cloth, or produce 5/6 units of wine. Meanwhile, in comparison, Portugal could commit 90 hours of labor to produce one unit of cloth, or produce 9/8 units of wine. So, Portugal possesses an absolute advantage in producing cloth due to fewer labor hours, but England has a comparative advantage in producing cloth due to lower opportunity cost.
In other words, if it is cheaper for a country to produce one good relative to a second, then they will have a comparative advantage and an incentive to produce more of that good which is relatively cheaper for them to produce than the other--assuming they have an advantageous opportunity to trade in the marketplace for the other more difficult to produce good. Similarly most anyone should take the opportunity to offer in the marketplace a good which they have a relative advantage in producing.
In the absence of trade, England requires 220 hours of work to both produce and consume one unit each of cloth and wine while Portugal requires 170 hours of work to produce and consume the same quantities. England is more efficient at producing cloth than wine, and Portugal is more efficient at producing wine than cloth. So, if each country specializes in the good for which it has a comparative advantage, then the global production of both goods increases, for England can spend 220 labor hours to produce 2.2 units of cloth while Portugal can spend 170 hours to produce 2.125 units of wine. Moreover, if both countries specialize in the above manner and England trades a unit of its cloth for 5/6 to 9/8 units of Portugal's wine, then both countries can consume at least a unit each of cloth and wine, with 0 to 0.2 units of cloth and 0 to 0.125 units of wine remaining in each respective country to be consumed or exported. Consequently, both England and Portugal can consume more wine and cloth under free trade than in autarky.
In order to run a high-level world tamers campaign, the PC colony (or bootstrap team) leaders need to be able to make decisions that have an impact on the growth and success of the colony, and also need to understand the functioning of the colony so that these decisions can be made in an informed and rational manner.This requires a simple and effective model of the economic processes that go on in a colony. This model is presented below for use with the Bootstrap and Colony adventures presented in this book (Chapters 6 and 7). It can also be used as the basic system for an infinite variety of other Traveller situations, such as working out the details an existing colony, outpost, or primitive society encountered in the Wilds. As a simple system, it is amenable to add-on modifications for additional color or variation, and referees should feel free to experiment with it to allow for variations in local conditions.
THE COLONIAL ECONOMIC MODEL
The economy of a colony is divided into four general sectors: agriculture, industrial production, materials, and power. Agriculture is the organized production of foodstuffs to feed the colonists or export for cash. This includes crop farming, animal husbandry, and fishing.
Materials is the extraction of raw materials from the environment for use in the other three economic areas. It includes mining of minerals and solid fuels from the ground, wells to extract petroleum, logging, and even the raising of certain non-food crops such as cotton and hemp.
Manufacturing is the conversion of raw materials to finished manufactured items. It is divided into heavy industry, light industry, and construction. Heavy industry produces large vehicles and machinery, as well as smelting metal from ore. It is necessary for industrial expansion. Light industry makes finished consumer goods, such as furniture, electronics, and textiles. Construction builds infrastructure items such as roads and housing.
Power generates electrical power (or its equivalent at earlier tech levels) for industry.
Each of the four economic sectors is defined within the same set of categories (the energy sector is an exception in some of the areas, see the Energy section below for details): labor, capital, energy, raw materials, required land, and output, as defined below.
Labor: This represents the number of people working in that sector of the economy. The unit used to quantify the amount of labor is the laborer.The greater the number of laborers working in a sector, the greater the output that sector can create. In the model, however, a laborer is defined as the actual workers in an area as well as their dependants. This avoids the need to keep separate track of total population as opposed to actual labor force. Thus a family of four in the agricultural sector would count as four laborers.
Capital: This represents the quantity of equipment, tools, and machinery that is devoted to this sector of the economy. For agriculture this is plows, barns, fishing boats, etc., for industry it is factories, for materials it is mines, digging equipment, oil wells, and the like. For simplicity, this capital equipment is quantified not in numbers of pieces of machinery, but by its value in credits (Cr) (the unit of currency in Traveller, approximately equal to one dollar. MCr = megacredits = 106 credits). This allows rough equivalencies to be made between such dissimilar things as shovels, fish traps, and rivet guns.
The greater the amount of capital in a sector, the more labor saving devices are available, which increase the productivity of the labor in the sector, increasing the output of that sector.
For you budding Marxists out there, "capital" in this sense is equivalent to the means of production.
Land: Both agriculture and raw materials production require land, and that requirement is measured in square kilometers per laborer. The requirements for agriculture vary with tech level (TL). The requirements for materials vary with the richness of the deposit. Poorer deposits require larger tracts of land to extract economically useful amounts of materials. The richness of deposits is determined by the planetary survey. Each 20-kilometer mapping hex has an area of 350 square kilometers.
Power: Power is required by certain sectors to operate their equipment. In most cases, this power can be assumed to be electrical in nature (although at low tech levels it might be mechanical energy transmitted short distances by gears and pulleys, etc.). Power is measured in Kilowatts, where 1000 Kilowatts equal 1 Megawatt (multiply power in Kilowatts by 0.001 to get Megawatts).
Raw Materials: Sectors require raw materials to operate their machinery (in the form of fossil fuels) or to transform into manufactured goods (iron to make steel, steel to make machinery, cotton to makeclothing, copperto make electrical wiring, etc.). Raw materials are measured by their mass in tonnes (metric ton = 1,000 kilograms).
Output: Output is the end product produced by the economic sector in question. The units in which output is measured depends upon the sector, as the industrial sector produces capital, the materials sector produces raw materials, the energy sector produces power, and the agricultural sector produces the food eaten by all citizens.
Agricultural Sector Key Values TL AC RM Land Output
0 - - 0.1 2 1 300 - 0.15 3 2 800 - 0.2 4 3 1500 - 0.3 6 4 2400 1 0.4 9 5 4000 2 0.5 12 6 6000 4 0.6 15 7 9800 6 0.7 21 8 14,400 8 0.8 27 9 18,000 10 0.9 33 10 21,000 12 1.0 39 11 24,200 14 1.1 45 12 27,600 16 1.0 52 13 31,200 14 0.8 60 14 35,000 12 0.6 68 15 39,000 10 0.4 75
Agricultural output is a product of labor, capital, land, and (at higher tech levels) raw materials. All must be present to produce food. The basic building block is labor.
Labor: The basic unit of measure is the Agricultural Laborer. Agricultural Laborers (ALs) comprise all of the agricultural members of the population (farmers, their families, etc.). In order to produce agricultural output, each AL requires capital, land, and raw materials. This varies by tech level as explained below.
Capital: Capital goods are the machines that labor operates to farm the land (plows, tractors, combines), as well as necessary buildings (such as grain silos, barns, and farrowing houses) and livestock. Normally each AL is provided with one unit of agricultural capital goods.The price of a unit of agricultural capital goods is listed on the table below.
What is a Laborer?
In the passages below, economic relationships are defined in terms of laborers: agricultural laborers (AL), industrial laborers (IL), and material laborers (ML). These are treated as abstract units for purposes of computing the functioning of the colonial economy, but they have real-world equivalents.
Each laborer is equal to one actual person in the colony's population. This individual person is not necessarily a member of the workforce, however. Each laborer represents roughly one quarter of a worker, representing the members of a society who are too young or too old to work, or are otherwise occupied in non-workforce roles (including full-time parents, etc.). Thus if a colony currently has 800 industrial laborers, this number includes the families of the actual industrial workers, whose actual number is around 200.
This distinction does not affect the way the economic model works, but is helpful to referees and players attempting to visualize the roleplaying "reality" that is being modelled here.
Excess Labor: Societies short of capital may still increase agricultural production by employing more agricultural workers. Up to twice as many ALs of labor maybe employed in the agricultural sector as there are units of capital, but all ALs in excess of the total units of capital produce at half the normal rate. For simplicity, where labor exceeds capital, subtract the units of agricultural capital from the total number of agricultural laborers. Multiply the result by 0.5, and add this number to the number of units of agricultural capital.
The result is the output multiplier which is applied to the agricultural sector's output (see below). Results of greater than 1.5 times the total units of agricultural capital are not possible.AC + (0.5 × [AL-AC]) = Output Multipler
with a maximum result of 1.5×AC
AC: units of agricultural capital
AL: agricultural laborers
Excess Capital: Societies short of labor may increase production by using more and better machines (capital goods). Each AL which has a second unit of capital assigned to it produces at 1.25 times the normal rate. An AL derives no additional benefit from having more than two units of capital assigned to it. For simplicity, where capital exceeds labor, subtract units of labor from units of capital. Multiply the result by 0.25 and add this to the total units of labor.
The result is the output multiplier which is applied to the agricultural sector's output (see below). Results greater than 1.25 times the total AL are not possible.(0.25 × [AC-AL])+AL = Output Multiplier
with a maximum result of 1.25×AL
AC: units of agricultural capital
AL: agricultural laborers
Livestock: An additional component of agricultural capital is livestock. Livestock is measured in terms of rations (as they are edible, and can be replaced from agricultural production by converting slaughter animals to breeding stock). Each AL must be provided with rations equal to the rated monthly output for that tech level as initial livestock, up to a maximum of 33 rations. As with capital goods, this is a one-time investment. Unlike capital goods there is no continuing maintenance cost.
What is the Tech Level of My Colony?
The tech level of a colony is determined by the tech level of its capital machinery. Since capital machinery is purchased separately for the separate economic sectors, different sectors can be at different tech levels, and a single sector can include capital mahinery from more than one tech level.
In general terms, the difference in tech levels between two sectors cannot be greater than one, and a single sector can have capital machinery from only two consectutive tech levels at a time: the lower tech level it is coverting from, and the higher tech level it is converting to.
Since this is a science fiction game in which a virtually infinite variety of social structures can be encountered, referees should feel free to design societies that have greater technological difference between or within sectors, but for the purpose of PC groups leading their own colonies, the one TL limit above should be enforced.
For example, a tech level 7 colony wishes to add additional ALs to the farm work force. Each AL requires Cr4,900 in heavy industry output, Cr4,900 in construction industry output, and 21 rations worth of livestock. An additional AL in a tech level 11 colony requires Cr12,100 in heavy industry output, Cr12,100 in construction industry output, and 33 rations worth of livestock.
Certain random events may cause the colony to lose livestock, in which case they must be replaced from food reserves or production. ALs which do not have their required livestock capital suffer a 10% reduction in agricultural output.
Buying New Agricultural Capital: Agricultural capital is produced by the heavy industry sector, and the tech level of the new capital is equivalent to the tech level of the industrial capital that manufactured it. Agricultural capital may also be deliberately built at any tech level lower than that of the manufacturing industrial capital.
Land: Each farm laborer requires a fixed amount of land to farm. This amount increases with tech level, and is noted on the table below. Land requirements are based on the number of ALs or the units of agricultural capital, whichever is less. Extra labor or capital are used to increase output on land already under cultivation, and so do not increase land use.
The survey of the hex in which the colony is located will provide a richness rating of the land as well as a useable percentage. The richness rating is a modifier to agricultural output. The useable percentage is the proportion of the land in the hex (and in each 20-kilometer mapping hex within it) which can be used for farming.
Power: The agricultural sector has no specific needs for power; these are subsumed within other sections of the economic model.
Raw Materials: From tech level 4 and above, the agricultural sector requires an amount of raw materials, measured in tonnes per month, to produce food. This amount of raw materials is based on the number of ALs or the units of agricultural capital, whichever is greater.
These raw materials include fuel for farm machinery, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. If this is not provided, that AL or unit of capital produces food, but only at the rate for tech level 3. When some raw materials are provided, but not enough for the entire sector, the colonial leadership will have to decide how to allocate raw materials to existing units of agricultural capital and assign ALs to the supplied and unsupplied units of capital.
The per-AL energy requirement differs with tech level. Raw materials are only required in months of the growing season (as determined in the Survey chapter).
Output: Output of the agricultural sector is measured in a base value of "rations" produced per month per AL or AC. A ration is enough to feed one person for one month at subsistence level. Agriculture only produces rations during the growing season (as determined in the Survey chapter). The capital provided for each AL is assumed to include sufficient storage space for whatever rations are produced.
This tech level-based value is multiplied by the Output Multiplier calculated above. This output is multiplied by the hex's richness rating as determined by the survey. This output may be further modified by random events and the results of the monthly output roll.
For purposes of transportation, a ration (food for one person for one month) masses 0.1 tonne and displaces 0.1 cubic meter.
Industrial Sector Key Values TL Light
KW RM* Output 0 5 15 2.5 - 0.1 50 1 10 30 5 - 0.2 75 2 15 45 7.5 - 0.3 100 3 150 450 75 0.1 1 200 4 500 1500 250 0.2 4 300 5 1350 4050 675 0.3 7 500 6 3000 9000 1500 0.4 15 750 7 6500 19,500 3250 0.8 30 1000 8 11,000 33,000 5500 1.2 45 1500 9 15,000 45,000 7500 1.5 55 2000 10 20,000 60,000 10,000 1.8 65 2500 11 24,000 72,000 12,000 2.0 70 3000 12 28,000 84,000 14,000 2.2 75 3500 13 32,000 96,000 16,000 2.4 80 4000 14 37,000 111,000 18,500 2.6 85 4500 15 42,000 126,000 21,000 2.8 90 5000 *Value listed is for the production of
light manufactured or construction goods.
For the production of heavy manufactured goods
(possible only with heavy captial goods), double this value
Industrial production is a product of labor, capital, energy, and raw materials. All four must be present to produce finished goods. For our purposes, the basic building block will be labor.
Labor: The basic unit of measure is the Industrial Laborer. Industrial Laborers (ILs) comprise all of the members of the population associated with the manufacture of finished goods from raw materials. At each tech level the capital, power, and raw material needs of an IL are different, as explained below.
Capital: Capital goods are the machines that labor operates to manufacture finished goods, as well as the buildings that house them. Normally each IL is provided with one unit of industrial capital goods (IC). The price of a unit of industrial capital goods (one IC) is listed on the table below.
Excess Labor: Societies short of capital may still increase industrial production by employing more workers. Up to twice as many ILs of labor may be employed in the industrial sector as there are units of capital, but all ILs in excess of the total units of capital produce at only one-half the normal rate. For simplicity, where labor exceeds capital, subtract the units of industrial capital from the total number of industrial laborers. Multiply the result by 0.5, and add this number to the number of units of industrial capital.
The result is the output multiplier which is applied to the industrial sector's output (see below). Results of greater than 1.5 times the total units of industrial capital are not possible.IC + (0.5 × [IL-IC]) = Output Multiplier
with a maximum result of 1.5×AC
IC: units of industrial capital
IL: industrial laborers
Excess Capitol: Societies short of labor may increase production by using more and better machines (capital goods). Each IL which has a second unit of capital assigned to it produces at 1.25 times the normal rate. An IL derives no additional benefit from having more than two units of capital assigned to it. For simplicity, where capital exceeds labor, subtract units of labor from units of capital. Multiply the result by 0.25 and add this to the total units of labor.
The result is the output multiplier which is applied to the industrial sector's output (see below). Results greater than 1.25 times the total units of industrial labor are not possible.(0.25×[IC-IL])+IL = Output Multiplier
with a maximum result of 1.25×IL
IC: units of industrial capital
IL: industrial laborers
Types of Industrial Capital: There are three types of capital goods: heavy industry capital goods, light industry capital goods, and construction industry capital goods. These types differ in terms of capital goods requirements and in what they may manufacture. The price listed on the table below is for light industry capital goods; heavy industry capital goods cost three times this amount, while construction capital goods cost half this amount.
When purchasing capital goods for any sector, half must be produced from heavy industry output and half from construction output. When initially setting up a colony the machinery for industry is usually transported in by starship, but the buildings to house it (the half of the cost represented by the construction sector) must still be erected. (See pre-fabricated buildings on page 36 of the infrastructure section following.)
Buying New Industrial Capital: Existing heavy industrial capital can manufacture new industrial capital at any tech level equal to or less than its own.
Heavy industrial capital may build new industrial capital at the current tech level +1 at twice the listed cost, and only if all capital (of all types: agricultural, raw materials, and all three types of industrial) has already been brought up to the same tech level. This means that on the turn immediately following this technological breakthrough, the lower tech industrial capital may no longer build at the current TL+1: all new capital at the higher tech level must be built by the new "prototype" capital. (This artificiality is intended to put the brakes on technological advancement within this simple economic model without having to expand it to include complex rules on research and development, science, etc.)
Converting Industrial Capital: Existing industrial capital may be converted into industrial capital of the next higher tech level at the rate of 20% of its cash value. For example, 100 units of TL-4 light industrial capital are valued at (Cr500×100=) Cr50,000. If this were to be converted to TL-5 light industrial capital, the amount would be 20% of 50,000 or Cr10,000, which would become (10,000+1350=7.4, dropping fractions =) 7 units of TL-5 light industrial capital. This conversion may only be conducted if at least 50% of the current heavy industrial capital is at this higher tech level, and the new (higher TL) value of the converted equipment must be less than or equal to the current heavy industrial output in credits.
Industrial capital may only be converted into higher-tech industrial capital of the same type, i.e., light industry into light industry only, heavy industry into heavy industry only.
Land: The industrial sector requires no land of its own per se. Rather, the land required for industry is factored into that required for housing infrastructure (see the Infrastructure section, below).
Power: Each IL of labor requires a fixed amount of power to produce finished goods. If this is not provided, that IL cannot work (and produces nothing in that period). The per-IL power requirement differs with tech level, and is expressed in terms of kilowatts of power generating capacity continuously devoted to industry.
Raw Materials: Each IL of labor requires a fixed amount of raw materials, measured in mass tonnes per month, to produce finished goods. If this is not provided, that IL cannot work (and produces nothing in that period). The per-IL energy requirement differs with tech level. Heavy industry requires twice the listed mass of raw materials if producing heavy manufactured goods (see Output below). If producing light manufactured goods it requires the listed mass of raw materials.
Output: The base output in finished goods of an IL is measured in Credits of value produced per month. This base value can be adjusted up or down based upon provision of capital goods (as explained above) and by the results of the monthly output roll.
Heavy Industry may produce either heavy industrial goods or light manufactured goods. Light industry may only produce light industrial goods. Construction industry produces infrastructure.
Heavy industrial goods are the capital goods used in all of the economic sectors, plus power plants, vehicles, aircraft, ships, spacecraft, artillery, large rockets and missiles, etc.
Light industrial goods are all other manufactured items (electronics, home appliances, paper products, pharmaceuticals, textiles, furnishings, military small arms, shoulder-fired rockets and missiles, etc).
Infrastructure consists of buildings, roads, bridges, starports, monorails, etc.
Materials Sector Key Values TL MC KW Output 0 0.5 - 1 1 1 - 2 2 1.5 - 3 3 15 0.1 10 4 50 0.2 40 5 135 0.3 70 6 300 0.4 150 7 650 0.8 300 8 1100 1.2 450 9 1500 1.5 550 10 2000 1.8 650 11 2400 2.0 700 12 2800 2.2 750 13 3200 2.4 800 14 3700 2.6 850 15 4200 2.8 900
The materials sector of the economy produces the raw materials that are used by the other sectors to fuel vehicles,fertilize the ground, and build finished goods (all of which are abstracted into a single raw material requirement). Materials production is a product of labor, capital, land, and power. It does not require materials, but rather produces them. For our purposes, the basic building block will be labor.
Labor: The basic unit of measure is the Materials Laborer. Materials Laborers (MLs) comprise all of the members of the population associated with discovery, collecting, creation, and/or extraction of raw materials. At each tech level the capital and energy needs of an ML are different, as explained below.
Capital: Capital goods are the equipment that labor operates to find and recover or produce raw materials, as well as the structures in which these operations are conducted. Normally each ML is provided with one unit of capital goods. The price of a unit of capital goods is listed on the table below.
Excess Labor: Societies short of capital may still increase raw materials production by employing more workers. Up to twice as many MLs of labor may be employed in the materials sector as there are units of capital, but all ML in excess of the total units of capital produce at only one-half the normal rate. For simplicity, where labor exceeds capital, subtract the units of materials capital from the total number of materials laborers. Multiply the result by 0.5, and add this number to the number of units of materials capital.
The result is the output multiplier which is applied to the materials sector's output (see below). Results of greater than 1.5 times the total units of materials capital are not possible.MC + (0.5×[ML-MC]) = Output Multiplier
with a maximum result of 1.5×MC
MC: units of materials capital
ML: materials laborers
Excess Capital: Societies short of labor may increase materials production by using more and better machines (capital goods). Each ML which has a second unit of capital assigned to it produces at 1.25 times the normal rate. An ML derives no additional benefit from having more than two units of capital assigned to it. For simplicity, where capital exceeds labor, subtract units of labor from units of capital. Multiply the result by 0.25 and add this to the total units of labor.
The result is the output multiplier which is applied to the materials sector's output(see below). Results greater than 1.25 times the total units of materials labor are not possible.(0.25×[MC-ML])+ML = Output Multiplier
with a maximum result of 1.25×ML
MC: units of materials capital
ML: materials laborers
Buying New Materials Capital: Materials capital is produced by the heavy industry sector, and the tech level of the new capital is equivalent to the tech level of the industrial capital that manufactured it. Materials capital may also be deliberately built at any tech level lower than that of the manufacturing industrial capital.
Land: The materials sector requires land to extract and process raw materials. Land requirements are determined by the planetary survey. Each hex will have a richness rating and a useable percentage rating. The richness rating is the tonnes of raw material per month which can be extracted from a square kilometer of land. The useable percentage is the percentage of land in the hex which may be used to extract raw materials. It is possible to have a high richness rating and a low useable percentage, indicating a limited but very concentrated deposit
Land use per ML is based on the output of those MLs. For example, 10 TL-6 MLs properly supplied with capital and power can produce 1500 tonnes of raw materials per month. The amount of ground required to support this output varies with the richness rating. If the materials richness rating of the hex were 100, the 10 laborers would require 15 square kilometers to meet their capabilities.
Power: Each ML of labor requires a fixed amount of power to produce raw materials goods. If this is not provided, that ML can work but only produces output at the TL-2 level. The per-ML power requirement differs with tech level, and is expressed in terms of kilowatts of power generating capacity continuously devoted to the materials sector.
Output: The base output of the materials sector is in tonnes of raw materials per month. This base value can be adjusted up or down based upon provision of capital goods (as explained above) and by the results of the monthly output roll.
Agricultural Production of Raw Materials: Agricultural products can be used for textiles, fuel, building materials, synthetics, glues, and a host of other raw material functions. If desired, up to 30% of the colony's raw materials needs may be met by agricultural produce. Each ration masses 0.1 tonne and may be used on a one-for-one basis for raw material. Thus ten rations could be substituted for one tonne of raw materials.
This segment of the economic model produces the power that is consumed by the other sectors of the economy. The power sector does not require persons to be assigned to it, only to have the proper power-generating equipment built, and to have materials (fuel) and maintenance provided for it. There are no “power laborers."
Power-generating equipment is designed using the Power Production sequences in Fire, Fusion, & Steel (FF&S), and/or the supplemental power generation systems detailed below.
Chemical Power: Any of the chemical power production plants listed in Fire, Fusion, & Steel can be used as a stationary power source.
The fuel demand in tonnes of a chemical power plant must be calculated so that these needs may be met by the materials sector of the economy and the transportation network.
Because the economic model does not distinguish between fossil fuels, it is only important that these are noted as being present on the planet. However, to simulate the use of coal instead of oil or natural gas at lower tech levels, use the coal fuel use multiplier from FF&S (×1.5) at TLs 3 and 4. If fossil fuel is not available on the world, chemical power plants must instead burn alcohol or wood at the conversion rates listed in FF&S. However, aside from the differences in required tonnages, these different types of fuel are all supplied by the materials sector without differentiation.
Nuclear Power: These are designed using the Nuclear Power Plants table of FF&S. Fission power plants must have a supply of radioactives, either from local sources or from off-planet. In the case of high-tech fission plants that are maintained from off-world, it is assumed that this off-world maintenance includes refueling, so a local supply of radioactives is unnecessary.
Hydro Power Generators TL Type MCr per
Efficiency 1 Water Wheels 0.01 0.4 3 Water Wheels 0.02 0.5 4 Hydrogenerators 0.25 0.95
Hydro Power: In the survey chapter, each planetary hex was evaluated for the total quantity of extractable hydro power. This power is extracted using the water wheels and turbines on the table below. At TL 4 and lower, this power is hydromechanical, and is extracted via gears and pulleys to operate machinery. At TL 5+, electrical generator turbines extract this power as hydroelectric power which is naturally much more flexible in the uses it can be put to, although this economic infrastructure model imposes no penalties on the use of low tech hydromechanical power.
Water wheels and hydrogenerator turbines at a given tech level have a listed efficiency of extraction. This shows the limit to the amount of extractable hydro power in the hex that can actually be harnessed at that tech level. Multiply the hex’s extractable hydro power by this number to find this maximum quantity of power at each tech level.
The extraction of a mapping hex’s hydro power via hydrogenerators removes a portion of that hex’s land area from other service, i.e., it cannot be also used for housing, agricultural, or raw materials land. This simulates the large reservoirs created by hydroelectric projects. Divide the power output of installed hydrogenerators by the total extractable hydro power in the hex (modified by the TL extraction efficiency) and divide by 2. The result is the percentage of area in the hex that can no longer be used for any other purpose.These penalties to not apply to water wheels, which are simply placed alongside streams or rivers, requiring their attached facilities to also be close by.
Hydrogenerators may not be imported from off world; they may only be manufactured by the construction sector of the world. This is because TL-5+ hydroelectric projects require massive and time consuming programs to build dams, and this capacity is limited by local productive capacities and cannot be simply bought and installed.
Water wheels may be imported. Both water wheels and hydrogenerators are treated as being constructed by the economy's construction sector.
Wind Power Generators TL Type MCr per
Efficiency 3 Windmills 0.01 0.3 4 Windmills 0.05 0.5 5 Wind Turbines 0.2 0.8 7 Wind Turbines 0.25 1.0 9 Wind Turbines 0.3 1.2 12 Wind Turbines 0.4 1.5
Wind Power: In the survey chapter, each planetary hex was evaluated for the total quantity of extractable wind power. As with hydro power above, wind generators have extraction efficiencies that vary with tech level. Multiply the hex‘s extractable wind power by this number to find this maximum quantity at each tech level.
Also like hydro power, harnessing a hex’s wind power removes portions of that hex’s land area from service. Multiply the hex’s extractable wind energy by the tech level efficiency figure on the table below. Then take the total installed output of wind generators installed in the hex and divide it by the modified extractable energy available in the hex. The result is the percentage of square kilometers in the hex that are no longer available for any other use because they are now covered by wind turbine farms.
Solar Power: Solar power arrays described in FF&S may be assembled in ground installations to provide supplementary power during daylight hours. However, unless sufficient storage batteries are available, a solar array can provide no power at night.
Orbiting solar arrays capable of capturing stellar energy from synchronous orbit and beaming it to surface rectifier/antenna (rectenna) installations can overcome most of the daylight limitation. These solar arrays transmit their power to the ground rectennas via large masers. Double the price and mass of the solar cells (not collector panels) to allow forthe transmission masers and capacitors/batteries required to hold the power during transmission interruptions.
Rectenna installations are needed to receive the microwave power and to step down the frequency to a standard electrical range (50- 60 hertz). The rectenna installation area is 100 square meters per megawatt of power being beamed down from orbit. Rectenna installations cost MCr0.1 per 100 square meters.
A colony requires a certain basic level of physical infrastructure, consisting of transportation and housing. Both of these are built by the construction sector, while vehicles to move goods on the transportation lines are built by heavy industry.
Roads are basic to any society. The first roads are dirt tracks through the wilderness, and the first streets are the spaces between the buildings in a village. As a society advances and finds and utilizes sources of petrochemicals, limestone, sand, and gravel, roads are paved so that wheeled traffic can move more efficiently, mud can no longer bog down vehicles, and dust and dirt generated by passing traffic is kept to a minimum.
Roads allow vehicles to move from point to point at speeds greater than their normal cross-country speeds by levelling out uneven terrain, eliminating mud, etc. The low-tech roads described below provide a road bonus which is added to the vehicle‘s cross-country speed while travelling on the road. However, this speed cannot exceed the vehicle’ permanent rated road speed (as calculated in the design sequence or listed with the vehicle‘ ratings). At higher tech levels, roads simply allow vehicles to use their rated road speeds.
Trails is Tracks (TL 0): These are the first overland roads. They cost nothing to build as they are essentially formed by the passage of humans and their wagons and sometimes by the passage of local animal life. Vehicles using trails and tracks move at their cross-country speed rate +1.25 kph (add 5 to cross-country travel move) as they do not have to break through brush. They are reduced to their basic cross-country speed in rainy weather because of mud.
Improved Trails 8: Tracks (TL 1): These are basically trails and tracks that have been widened and graded with animal-powered scrapers. Traffic may pass in opposite directions without one party leaving the road. Vehicles using improved trails and tracks move at their cross-country speed rate +2.5 kph (add 10 to cross-country travel move) in good weather, but are reduced to their cross-country speed in rainy weather because of mud.
Crowned Roads (TL 2): These roads are constructed with a cambered surface so that water will flow off them to be carried away by drainage ditches alongside them, and are usually also topped with gravel or stones. Vehicles using crowned roads move at their cross-country speed rate +3.75 kph (add 15 to cross-country travel move) and do not have a mud penalty in rainy weather.
However, continuous use by heavy vehicles (10 tonnes or greater) will destroy these roads in 1D20 days (roll single 20-sided die for number of days), and sustained use by tracked vehicles will destroy them after only two hours, in either case reducing them to the quality of improved trails and tracks, above.
Macadam Roads (TL 3): These are crowned and drained roads surfaced with chipped stones or gravel to form a water-impervious surface. Vehicles moving on macadam roads move at their cross-country speed +5 kph (add 20 to cross-country travel move) and do not have a mud penalty in rainy weather.
Sustained use of the road by heavy vehicles (10 tonnes or greater) will destroy these roads in 1D10 weeks (roll single 10-sided die), and use by tracked vehicles will destroy the surface in six hours, reducing the road to the quality of an improved trail/track.
Asphalt Roads (TL 4): These crowned and drained roads are topped with a bitumen-gravel mix, and are the basic road type found on mid-technology worlds. They are built with two or more lanes to allow opposing traffic and passing. Vehicles moving on asphalt roads move at their full road speed and do not have a mud penalty in rainy weather.
However, sustained use by heavy vehicles (10 tonnes or greater) will destroy these roads in 10+1D10 months (roll single 10-sided die and add 10), and use by tracked vehicles wili destroy the road surface in 12 hours, reducing the road to the quality of an improved trail/track.
Concrete Roads (TL 5+): A more durable alternative to asphalt roads, concrete roads are surfaced with a mixture of sand, gravel, and limestone which has been thermally converted into cement. Vehicles moving on concrete roads move at their full road speed and do not have a mud penalty.
Concrete roads are not damaged by vehicles of less than 50 tonnes, but will have their surfaces destroyed by 18 hours of sustained use by tracked vehicles, which reduce the road to the quality of an improved trail/track.
Fused Roads(TL 12+): The ultimate in road surfacing and construction, fused roads are built with mobile fusion reactors that use plasma jets to melt and fuse the ground into a thick ceramic-like surface. Vehicles on fused roads travel at their full road speed. Fused roads are not damaged by heavy nor tracked vehicles, though tracked vehicles usually must be fitted with rubberized track shoes in get proper traction on the ceramic surface.
Single Transport Line TL Load
0 0.1 Free/0.0005* 1 0.5 0.001 2 1 0.0015 3 4 0.003 4 6 0.004 5 8 0.005 6 10 0.006 7 15 0.008 8 30 0.01 *The cost for a TL-0 500-km
local road network is free,
but resource transport lines
cost MCr0.0005 per kilometer
Transportation: Cities require transportation lines into them from farm communities to move food, and from resource sites to bring raw materials. In addition, each inhabited 20-km hex requires a road network within it for local traffic. In both cases (resource transportation roads and local transport nets) are based on population, although the presence of heavy industry in a city will increase this.
For purposes of this model, the term city and colony are functionally equivalent terms, denoting a self-supporting population. While larger (hence older) cities/colonies may be spread over multiple hexes, bringing agricultural goods and raw materials from outlying hexes into the central industrial hex, young colonies will likely have all of their economic components—agricultural, materials resource sites, and industrial—located within the same 20-km hex.
All of these described transportation lines include roads and rail transportation (as appropriate to tech level, of course), but as any net includes elements of both of these types, they are abstracted as a general transportation capability. Transportation lines are rated by their potential load value, in millions of tonnes per month. A TL-1 transportation line has a load value of 0.5 million tonnes per month, for example, while a tech level-5 line has a load value of 8 million tonnes, and a tech level-8 line has a load value of 30 million tonnes. None of the transport nets or lines below are considered to take up any of the space in a hex, but are subsumed within the other land usages.
Local Transport Net: Each inhabited 20-kilometer hex of the colony requires 500 kilometers of road for local traffic. The population that can be accommodated in each hex is equal to the road net's load level in tonnes. As each 20-km hex may only have the single 500-kilometer road net built within it, this creates a tech level-based restriction on the maximum population that can live in a hex. As an economy's tech level increases, it is possible to upgrade the local transport net (by simply building a new 500-kilometer net which is assumed to replace the old one) to allow more people to live in the hex.
Resource Transport Lines: Resource transportation lines are required in inhabited hexes in addition to the transport net described above. Resource transportation lines consist of 20-kilometer stretches of roads, i.e., transportation arteries running from one side of the hex to the other. The required load level of the resource transportation system supplying a hex is equal to the tonnes of raw materials required per month plus the hex's total population multiplied by 0.1. Several such arteries may be built to meet the required load level. Thus a TL-2 colony hex with a required load level of 4 million tonnes would have to have at least four such 20-kilometer roads (4× the load level of 1 million tonnes per road = 4 million tonnes), at a total cost of (80 km × MCr0.0015=) Cr120,000.
If raw materials or rations are drawn from sites outside the hex containing the city, those hexes must be linked to the hex containing the city hex by transportation lines of sufficient load level to carry the raw materials or food. Each such transportation line leading into the city must equal or exceed the required load level or the city will not receive sufficient food or raw materials.
For example, a city hex is inhabited by 30,000 persons and draws in a total of 6,000,000 tonnes of raw materials and food each month. Of that tonnage, 2,000,000 is produced within the hex itself, 1,000,000 is produced in a hex two hexes from the city, and 3,000,000 is produced in a hex three hexes away from the city. Each of the three occupied hexes requires its own 500-km local road net. Although the colony's tech level is 2, the local nets are left at TL-0, as the load level at TL 0 still allows up to 100,000 persons to live in a single hex, and is therefore sufficient for the colony’s current needs.
The city hex requires resource transport lines with a total load of 6,000,000 tonnes.
Local and transportation lines are built by the construction sector of the economy. The table below lists the load capacity of a single transport line or network (in millions of tonnes), and the cost per kilometer of transport line, broken down by tech level.
Required Raw Materials: When calculating required loads above, it is important to remember that the raw materials required by the colony are not limited to those needed by the agricultural, industrial, and power sectors to keep their production going. This number also must include any excess raw material production that is being devoted to off-world trade, as well as the raw material requirements of the armed forces (see below).
Vehicles TL MCr RM MR 0 2.5 - 2/1 1 1.25 (3300 rations) 3/2 2 1 (2000 rations) 3/2 3 0.5 500 3/2 4 0.4 250 4/2 5 0.3 175 5/2 6 0.2 100 15/5 7 0.175 80 15/5 8 0.15 70 15/5
Vehicles: In order for a transportation line to operate at its capacity, it must also have transport machinery: cars and trucks for the roads, trains and train cars for the railroads and monorails. These are built by the heavy industry sector, and are measured in units of one million kilometer-tonnes of haulage.
If, for example, a city needed 1,000,000 tonnes of food and raw materials per month, and had to haul it in from a mean distance of four hexes or 80 kilometers (determined by the location of farming communities with sufficient excess food production to feed the city and material sites sufficient to meet its raw material needs), the city would need transport nets with a combined capacity of at least 1,000,000 tonnes (one tech level 2 transport line would be sufficient) and 80,000,000 kilometer-tonnes of vehicles in operation, or 80 units.
Note that vehicles have a raw material tonnage (fuel) for operating, also rated per unit of million kilometer-tonnes. At low tech levels this cost is in rations per month needed to feed the draft animals. This raw material or ration cost is added to the needs of the city being serviced. Thus in the example above, the TL-2 city requires 80 units of transport, and these units require (80x2000=) 160,000 rations per month.
The table below shows the price of vehicles in MCr per million kilometer-tonnes of capacity, as well as the tonnes of raw materials (or, at low TLs, number of rations) required for each million km-tonne unit of vehicles. When purchasing units of vehicles for a colony, note that the maximum tech level of vehicle which may be operated on a local road network or transport line is the tech level of the transport network or line +1. When a road network consists of multiple tech levels, use the lowest tech level present.
The MR column indicates the movement rate of a unit of transportation purchased at that tech level. This value is used only with the armed forces infrastructure below and the mass combat system (rules used to game out combat between armies).
Housing TL km2 per
persons per km2
0 4 10,000 1 2 20,000 2 1 40,000 3 0.8 50,000 4 0.6 66,666 5 0.5 80,000 6 0.4 100,000 7 0.3 133,333 8 0.25 160,000 10 0.2 200,000 12 0.15 266,666 14 0.1 400,000 15 0.05 800,000
Housing: Housing is defined in total cubic meters of housing available to the people of the colony. Housing is built by the construction industry and costs Cr100 per cubic meter.
Dividing the total cubic meters of housing by the total population will yield the cubic meters available per person, which is used to determine the Standard of Shelter (see below). As a general rule, 25 cubic meters per person is minimal shelter, usually provided by communal dormitories. Standard of shelter improves up to about 100 cubic meters per person, which is comfortable housing. Additional cubic meters provide more luxury than utility, and progressively greater increases are necessary to obtain meaningful benefits.
Power: Housing does not require power per se, as these requirements are subsumed within the per-laborer power requirements for the industrial and raw materials sectors.
Land: Housing requires land, and the amount of land required per cubic meter depends on the tech level. (At higher tech levels, high-rise buildings consume less land area for the cubic meters of housing provided.) The following chart indicates the square kilometers of land required per million cubic meters of shelter at different tech levels. When colony leaders lay out their colony within a hex, they may specify that housing is placed on land not suitable for agriculture or raw materials usage, within the referee’s discretion.
Armed Forces Key Values TL AFC KW 0 2.5 — 1 5 — 2 7.5 — 3 75 0.1 4 250 0.2 5 675 0.3 6 1500 0.4 7 3250 0.8 8 5500 1.2 9 7500 1.5 10 10,000 1.8 11 12,000 2.0 12 14,000 2.2 13 16,000 2.4 14 18,500 2.6 15 21,000 2.8
There is one final segment of society that must be considered, and that is the armed forces. These are not included in the economic model above, because their contribution cannot be measured in economic terms. In fact, to the casual observer, the provision of armed forces appears to be a drain upon a society's economy.
It is difficult to measure the marginal value of the common defense, or to determine what is the cheapest amount that can be spent to prevent the destruction of a society by its neighbors. There is substantial agreement among healthy societies that they do wish to be defended, but little consensus on how much defense is enough.
Labor: The armed forces are measured in armed forces laborers. Armed Forces Laborers (AFLs) represent the portion of society dedicated to military pursuits. The total number of AFLs multiplied by 0.25 yields the number of troops, each of which represents one person enlisted in the armed forces.
Capital: Capital goods are the baseline equipment that allow the armed forces to exist: infrastructure such as barracks, armories, typewriters, etc. This value is listed on the table on page 35, and one unit of capital goods must be provided per AFL (not troop). Note that this value does not include weapons of any kind.
All weapons, including small arms, ammunition, vehicles, aircraft, spacecraft, etc., must be purchased or designed and purchased using such resources as the equipment section in the TNE basic rules, Fire, Fusion, & Steel, the Reformation Coalition Equipment Guide, and the equipment section and supplementary design sequences (for black powder and bow weapons) that appear in Chapters 10 and 9 of this book, respectively. The amount of such weaponry purchased depends upon the number of troops available, but the organization of these troops and the level of their equippage is up to the society's leaders (in this case, usually the Player-Characters). See also the Infrastructure subheading below.
Energy: Each troop requires a fixed amount of energy to remain in readiness. If this is not provided, those troops are incapable of responding adequately to hostile acts (referee's discretion). The per-troop energy requirement differs with tech level, and is expressed in terms of kilowatts of power generating capacity continuously devoted to the armed forces.
Military Raw Materials TL Fuel Type FC Tonnes
0 Wood Bio 0.002 1 Alcohol Bio 0.001 1 Coal FF 0.002 4 Hydrocarbon
FF 0.001 5 Liquid
FF 0.001 6 Radioactives — 0.019 7 High-Grade
FF 0.001 7 Hydrogen
— 0.0003 7 Liquid Hydrogen — 0.00007
Raw Materials: The armed forces require raw materials based on the fuel consumption of their capital goods (vehicles, etc.). This is calculated based on the performance data found in the various equipment listings, and is based on the amount of operation that the equipment will undergo in a given month. Note that the amount of raw materials provided will not only govern the tempo of military operations in a war (see page 47 of Chapter 5, the Mass Combat System), but will affect the quantity of training that can be conducted with this equipment in peacetime.
Raw materials should be provided to allow equipment to be operated for a certain number of hours per month. For simplicity, assume that all pieces of military equipment are operated for the same amount of time each month. Equipment designed with Fire, Fusion, & Steel or picked from published equipment lists have their fuel consumption rates listed, usually in terms of liters of fuel per hour.
Although goods from the materials sector are referred to as raw materials (which is to distinguish them from the finished goods which come from the industrial sector), for the purposes of this model, assume that these raw materials are fully useable in their delivered form (refined fuel, gasoline, jet fuel, etc.).
Not all fuels are available at all tech levels, which clearly places a limit on the armed forces which can be maintained by a given world. A world whose materials sector tech level (defined as the tech level of capital goods which constitute 50% or more of the materials sector) cannot produce the required fuel type must import fuel for its armed forces.
FC: Fuel Class. This indicates certain restrictions on fuel availability that vary from world to world, as established in the Survey Chapter. Fuels labelled "FF" (fossil fuels) may only be produced by the materials sector on worlds where such fuels are available. Fuels labelled "Bio" are biological in origin, and may only be produced by the materials sector on worlds where life is possible. The notation "—" indicates no such restrictions.
Note that for armed forces which use animal transportation, each horse (or horse equivalent if using non-Terran beasts) requires one ration and provides an absolute value of 160 hours of operation per month. This 160-hour figure is effectively a minimum usage level, as horses cannot be multi-tasked. For example, if an army's organization requires 100 horses (say, 40 horse-mounted cavalry and 30 wagons each with two horses), it must be provided with 100 rations and is capable of being operated up to 160 hours per month, regardless of whether it actually is. That force could not be provided with only 50 rations and operated at 80 hours per month. On the other hand, if the leaders wished for this army to be able to operate at 240 hours per month, it would require more horses and rations: 150 horses consuming 150 rations per month.
Military Training Quality Hours/month Elite 120 Veteran 80 Experienced 40 Novice 20
Readiness: The amount of operating hours will affect the readiness of the armed forces by dictating the amount of training that can be conducted.
The above activity levels are required to maintain the listed troop qualities; units of lower troop quality may not be improved to higher levels by providing them with more hours of operation. For example, a unit of Elite troops must have raw materials provided to it to allow all of its equipment to be operated for 120 hours a month. If it were allocated 80 hours, the unit would fall to Veteran quality, or to Experienced quality if it were allocated raw materials for only 40 hours. A unit whose quality has been allowed to fall for lack of operating hours can be raised back up to its original quality by restoring the appropriate level of raw materials, but each level recovered takes six months. Thus the Elite unit allowed to fall to Experienced quality would require six months of supply at 80 hours before it would be considered to be back up to Veteran quality, and then a further six months of supply at 120 hours before it would be treated as Elite again. (See the TNE sourcebook Path of Tears: The Star Viking Sourcebook, pp. 95-97 for discussion of how to determine quantity and quality of planetary armed forces.)
Infrastructure: Rather than requiring players to design supply units to support their combat formations, simply total up the mass of ammunition owned by the armed forces plus the mass of the monthly raw materials provided to the armed forces, and purchase transportation sufficient to carry that tonnage of materials from the Vehicles table on page 33 (one unit of vehicles per million tonnes). The table shows the movement rate that will be used for the army's suppties, see page 44 of the Mass Combat Chapter.
Output: The base output of the armed forces is the capability to break things and hurt people, and this is measured using the TNE rules for combat (including the rules for mass combat including in Chapter 5). The process of converting that capability into the somewhat intangible commodity called security is the art called statecraft. That is the province of the society's leaders. Good luck.
Assuming that the average machine tool lasts for about 20 years, every year 5% of the industrial capital (heavy, light, and construction) must be replaced, or 0.4% each month. Half of this is provided by the heavy industry sector and half by the construction industry sector. This is mostly what heavy industry does, and if it weren't for this drain on productivity, societies could grow like crazy.
For example, 100 units of tech level 5 heavy industrial capital are worth Cr405,000, and require a maintenance value of (405,000×0.004=) Crl620 to be paid each month, Cr810 from each of the heavy industry and construction sectors.
When the colony first starts, all of the capital tools and buildings are presumably new, so none need to be replaced. But starting on year 10 of the colony, 0.1 % per month must be put into maintenance, 0.2% in year eleven, 0.3% in year twelve, and 0.4% in year thirteen and every year afterwards. (This delayed requirement keeps players from having to worry about this requirement in most cases, which few of them will find disappointing.)
The power sector and armed forces require maintenance at the same rate, based on the monetary value of all installed power generation systems and weapons (but not ammunition).
Infrastructure (including armed forces infrastructure) must be maintained as well, and each month the construction industry must invest 0.2% of the total value of the infrastructure (transportation and housing) in its maintenance.
Agricultural and materials sector capital goods are exempt from maintenance requirements.
If the colony has no heavy industry, or none of sufficient tech level to maintain high-tech imported systems, this maintenance must be imported from off-planet (and is purchased as a simple monetary value). Failure to meet the maintenance requirement leads to a gradual erosion of the capital base, as machines are cannibalized for parts. (That's what's been happening in the Wilds for decades.) The decline in useable capital machinery is twice the maintenance shortfall.
Maintenanceis paid monthly, based on the quantity of equipment (capital goods, infrastructure, etc.) existing at the beginning of the month.
Weather Effects on Maintenance: Note that the required infrastructure maintenance rate (normally 0.2% per month) may be modified by local weather conditions, as calculated on page 17 of the Survey chapter. If weather factors total +3 or less, there is no change to this base rate. If weather factors total +4 to +5, the monthly rate becomes 0.3%, and if weather factors total +6 or more the monthly rate becomes 0.4%.
Trade consists of exports sold off-world to generate money to purchase goods that are imported back to the world. These imports can consist of luxury goods, crucial high-tech spare parts, weapons, capital goods, etc.
A successful economy will produce surplus goods from any or all of the agricultural, industrial, and materials sectors. Even a marginal economy can be controlled to produce trade goods by skimping on the products that are reinvested back into the economy, at the option of that society's leaders.
Exports: First the value of the world's exports must be defined. Industrial production is already defined in terms of credits, but agriculture and raw materials output must be converted into monetary terms.
This is done by converting rations and tonnes of raw materials into displacement tons of starship cargo. For rations, divide by 100 to get displacement tons, and for raw materials divide tonnes by 20 to get displacement tons. Then take the total number of tons of cargo to the top half of page 239 in the TNE rulebook and calculate the price that they are purchased for by traders that call at the world. (It is assumed that sufficient starships call each month to purchase all exports that are offered. After all, the Coalition or the sponsoring colonizing world is trying to expand its trade—it would befoolish to not see to it that the opportunities are there.)
Add the price paid for the agricultural and raw materials cargos to the monetary value of industrial exports. This is the total value of the goods in local credits. This value must then be converted using the exchange rates rules found on TNE pages 230-231 into terms of the currency of the sponsoring world. (For example, Baldur in the case of the colony adventure. In other cases, such as bootstrap operations, use the friendly base from which the mission was launched.) This is the amount of money available to buy imports.
Imports: Imports may be purchased using the money generated by exports. Note that purchases made with this money must still be adjusted for the exchange rates between the currency's base value and its value on the world where the imports are being purchased. For example, the world sponsoring the colony is a TL 12, Starport B world, and the colony is attempting to purchase goods from a Starport A, TL-15 world. The monetary value calculated above in "Exports" would have to be multiplied by 0.08 to find its purchasing power on the tech-15 world.
Referees will want to exercise some control over the imports that can be obtained: in a Reformation Coalition campaign, imports will obviously be limited to goods that can be produced in the Coalition. However, referees may stipulate that trade relations must first be opened to trading partners via some kind of diplomacy before trade can be attempted, etc.
On-World Trade: In campaigns on already-inhabited worlds, the Player-Character-led group will be able to trade with the on-planet neighbors. Handling these details will be up to the referee, as it should involve roleplayed diplomacy, and should probably involve detailed knowledge of the nature of the goods being traded. Furthermore, such trade might not always be for economic advantage. For example, a PC colony might simply give excess food or manufactured goods to a neighboring group in order to gain their good will.
Several rules affect only the initial set-up of the colony, and these are covered below.
Capital Machinery: All agricultural, industrial, and raw materials capital goods for the laborers in the colony must be transported aboard the colony transports. This equipment is transported at the rate of one displacement ton per Cr4000 of value.
Start-up Rations: Wise colony leaders will bring along rations sufficient to feed the colony for one or more months, until the economy can be gotten up and running. This food is shipped at the rate of 100 rations per displacement ton.
Livestock: Agricultural livestock capital normally paid in the form of rations may not be transported to the colony as bulk food, as it represents living organisms. Animals are brought to the colony in specially designed low berths. These low berths, called livestock low berths, have characteristics identical to emergency low berths. Each livestock low berth carries the equivalent of 10 rations worth of livestock.
Temporary Shelters: It will take a while to build even primitive dormitories, and in the mean time the colonists will need shelter from the elements. Basic tents can provide this shelter or limited time. Housing tentage costs Cr100 and masses 0.001 tonne and displaces 0.002 cubic meter per member of the colony.
Tents may also be used to provide cover for agriculture and machinery, thus letting farming and the other industries get under way immediately. Tents cost 10% of the normal capital construction price for construction and agriculture. They mass 10 tonnes and displace 20 cubic meters per million credits of tentage purchased.
Tents will last for approximately twelve months, at the end of which time they are worn out and are discarded.
Prefabricated Buildings: Housing and other buildings can be carried as prefabricated components and then assembled on the planet. The full price of the building is paid for the prefab components and then 10% of their value must be spent (again) by the construction sector on the planet to assemble them.
Lack of Roads: The necessary roads will not appear instantly, but economic activity will begin almost at once. All economic activity in a hex except for construction will operate at 60% efficiency (construction operates at 100%) until the necessary transportation network is completed. Fortunately, a 500-kilometer TL-0 local transport net appears immediately for free in the colony hex meaning that only resource supply roads need be built right away.
Placement in the Hex: The colony should be placed in one or more 20-kilometer hexes. Each such hex has 350 square kilometers of useable land in it, which must be divided up among raw material production, agriculture, and housing. (Land devoted to industry is included in the housing requirements.) Hexes on the seacoast will have their total area reduced based on how much of the hex is water. Players should make sketch maps of the layout of the colony, being sure to leave room for expansion.
Acclimatization can be a difficulty if the colonists come from a world that is too different from their destination. The acclimatization stage of colonists has an effect in the economic model (handled in the output roll). Colonists should be rolled for in groups, treating them as Non-Player-Characters (NPCs) for purposes of attributes. In detailed campaigns where the players have carefully interviewed colonists, the referee may be able to work out aggregate attribute values based on the established characteristics. In other cases, treat industrial, agricultural, and raw materials laborers as having a CON attribute of 6, and treat any troops as their rated NPC class for attributes. Referees and players may stipulate that crucial or detailed NPCs are rolled for individually. Naturally any bonuses for medical personnel in the colony/bootstrap team should be applied.
PLAYING THE COLONIAL ECONOMIC MODEL
The economic model is played in monthly turns, meaning that food, materials, and industrial production is totalled on a monthly basis and assessed against population and the internal needs of the economic sectors.
Month: Because different worlds will have different lengths of day, year, etc., for the purposes of this economic model, the term month is defined as approximately 750 hours, plus or minus a few percent to allow the referee to fit it conveniently to local units of time. For example, 750 hours equals 31.25 days each of 24 hours. An Earth month averages 30.4 days. 30.4 days is within 3% of 31.25, so the referee may simply use the existing Terran calendar to keep track of months. As always, the referee is the final judge of these matters.
Population Growth: At the end of every year the colonial population grows by 2%. These new laborers may be assigned to any economic sector desired by the colony leaders.
Scenario Conditions/Bookkeeping: Certain colony or bootstrap scenarios may be defined as being a year in duration, or have their criteria for success defined on a yearly basis.
Events are rolled for each month at the beginning of the administrative cycle. These include weather events, random events, and scenario specific random events.
Weather Table D20 Result D20 Result -3 Drought 13 No Effect -2 No Effect 14 Drought -1 Drought 15 Severe Storm 0 No Effect 16 Severe Storm 1 Drought 17 Drought 2 No Effect 18 No Effect 3 No Effect 19 Severe Storm 4 No Effect 20 Severe Storm 5 No Effect 21 Catastrophic Storm 6 No Effect 22 Severe Storm 7 No Effect 23 Drought 8 Drought 24 Severe Storm 9 No Effect 25 Catastrophic Storm 10 Drought 26 Severe Storm 11 No Effect 27 Catastrophic Storm 12 No Effect 28 Catastrophic Storm
Weather Events: The only Die-roll Modifier (DM) used on this table are the Weather Factors obtained during the planetary survey (roll single 20-sided die and add weather factor as Die-roll Modifier (DM). Weather factor varies from -4 to +8). The results are implemented on the current monthly turn.No Effect: nothing happens.
Drought: Lack of water causes -2 DM on Agricultural output roll for current turn.
Severe Storm: Violent storm damages colony. -2 DM on agricultural out put roll for current turn, plus roll 1D6 for specific result:
1-3: Kills number of colonists and destroys number of units of capital machinery equal to (1D6-colony tech level)×5. Roll for sector, 1-3=agriculture, 4-5=materials, 6=industrial.
4: Destroys (1D20-colony tech level)×500 cubic meters of housing
5: Destroys 1D6×100 stored rations
6: All of the above
Catastrophic Storm: Extremely violent storm damages colony. Agricultural output for current turn cut in half, plus roll 1D6 for specific result:
1-3: Kills number of colonists and destroys number of units of capital machinery equal to (1D20-colony tech level)×10. Roll for sector, 1-3=agriculture, 4-5=materials, 6=industrial.
4: Destroys (1D20-colony tech level)×2000 cubic meters of housing
5: Destroys 1D6×500 stored rations
6: All of the above
Roll 1D20. On a result of 16+, roll 1D20 on the Random Events table. On any other result, there is no random event for the month. There are no DMs on this table.
Referees should adjust numbers of deaths from plagues, etc., to allow for very small or very large colonies.
Random Event Table D20 Result 1 Plague strikes populace: 1D10 persons die each day until Impossible Medical (Diagnosis) task is completed (task may be rolled once per 24 hours). -4 DM on all output rolls this turn. -2 on political roll. 2 Disease strikes livestock: Kills 1D10 units of livestock each day until Impossible Medical (Diagnosis or Veterinary Medicine) task is completed (task may be rolled once per 24 hours). Due to diseased meat, agricultural output cut in half for this turn. -2 on political roll. 3 Plague strike populace: 1D6 person die each day until Formidable Medical (Diagnosis) task is completed (task may be rolled once per 24 hours). -2 DM on all output rolls this turn. -1 on political roll. 4 Disease strikes livestock: Kills 1D6 units of livestock each day until Formidable Medical (Diagnosis or Veterinary Medicine) task is completed (task may be rolled once per 24 hours). Due to diseased meat, agricultural output reduced by 25% for this turn. -1 on political roll. 5 Hostile starship visits (vampire ship, pirate, slaver, etc., referee's discretion) 6 Vermin eat 1D10×5% of stored rations. -2 on political roll. 7 Blight destroys crops. Agricultural output for turn cut in half. -2 on political roll. 8 Earthquake: 1D6×10% of housing destroyed. -1 on political roll. 9 Vermin eat 1d6×5% of stored rations. -1 on political roll. 10 Crime wave, succeed at Impossible Investigation, Psychology, or Streetwise task or -2 on political roll. 11 Crime wave; succeed at Formidable Investigation, Psychology, or Streetwise task or -1 on political roll. 12 Local carnivore rampages through colony, kills 1D20. Succeed at Impossible Tracking and Hunting task or -2 on political roll. 13 lndigenous animals stampede, destroy 1D20 units of agricultural capital. -1 on Political roll. 14 Crime Wave, succeed at Formidable Tracking and combat task or -1 on political roll. 15 No traders arrive this month, no exports sold this turn, all rations set aside for export spoil. 16 Friendly starship visits (referee's discretion) 17 Discovery of tasty local life form. Permanently add +1 to all agricultural output rolls. +1 on political roll this turn only. 18 Population explosion of local edible lifeforms. +4 DM on agricultural output roll for this month. +1 on political roll. 19 Discovery of hardy, prolific, edible, local lifeform. Pemanently add +2 to all future agricultural output rolls. +2 on political roll this turn only. 20 Population explosion of local edible lifeforms. Multiply agricultural output by 2 for this month. +2 on political roll
Scenario Specific Random Events: The bootstrap and colony adventures in this book show examples of scenario-specific random events tables.These are in addition to the Random Event Table above. Referees may create their own random events tables to reflect unique conditions on various worlds.
Three indices of public satisfaction are tracked: standard of nutrition, standard of shelter, and standard of living. All three are described below, and all three provide a DM to be used on the political table. However, although all three of these DMs are are calculated each month, only the lowest (i.e., that with the greatest negative effect) one of these three DMs is actually used on the political table.
However, note that the standard of nutrition does provide a DM on the output roll even if it is not the satisfaction DM being used on the political table.
Standard of Nutrition SN Output
0.45 - 0.54 -8 -4 0.55 - 0.64 -5 -3 0.65 - 0.74 -3 -2 0.75 - 0.84 -2 -1 0.85 - 0.94 -1 -1 0.95 - 1.1 — — 1.2 - 2.0 — +1 2.1 - 3.0 — +2 3.1 - 6.0 — +3 6.1 - 10.0 — +4 10.1+ — +5
Standard of Nutrition
The standard of nutrition (SN) is an important index of a colony's well being, as it has two effects. First, the SN level provides a DM on the monthly output roll as an index of the overall health of the population. Second, the SN level may provide a DM on the colony's monthly political roll as a measure of the overall happiness of the population, at least as regards their diet.
Determine the standard of nutrition in the following manner.
Total up the number of rations produced during the month, and determine the amount that are being allocated to the population (as opposed to being set aside for export, the creation of new agricultural capital, stored for future consumption, used for raw materials, used to feed animal-drawn transport or military equipment, traded to local natives, etc.). Divide this number by the total population, and the result is the standard of nutrition, expressed in rations per person.
Note that an SN of 2 does not necessarily mean that each person is eating twice as much. Rather, the higher numbers indicate that a greater proportion of the diet consists of luxury foods, or foods from "higher on the food chain." The ration unit is based on the amount of agricultural effort required to create sufficient food to keep a person alive for a month, rather than an absolute mass of edible material. This means that with a given amount of effort, a farmer could produce any of the following: a large quantity of wheat, a somewhat smaller quantity of oranges, a smaller quantity still of beef steak (because each kilogram of beef requires the cow to eat around 10 kilograms of feed), a still smaller quantity of veal, or an extremely small amount of fat goose liver.
Thus we assume that an SN of 1 describes a diet consisting mostly of grain (e.g., rice) or grain products (bread) plus a bare minimum of animal protein and other goodies, while higher SNs indicate a greater and greater percentage of labor- and nutrition-intensive foodstuffs, such as meat and luxury fruits and vegetables.
Standard of Shelter SN (m3) Political
25 - 50 -2 51 - 80 -1 81 - 120 — 121 - 160 +1 161 - 250 +2 251 - 350 +3 3.51+ +4
Standard of Shelter
The colony's standard of shelter (SS) isdefined as the cubic meters of housing per member of the population. Simply divide the total volume of housing in cubic meters by the total number of citizens. The result is the SS.
The standard of shelter provides a potential DM on the colony's monthly political roll.
Standard of Living Home TL Consumer
0 - 3 Cr5 4 - 5 Cr50 6 - 8 Cr250 9 - 10 Cr500 11 - 13 Cr1500 14 - 16 Cr2500
Standard of Living
The colony's standard of living (SL) is defined by consumer goods and is indexed on a monthly basis. The SL is determined by establishing the amount of light industrial production that is allocated to the population. These represent various consumer goods, luxuries, and labor-saving devices that are made available to the population. Divide the total monetary value of these goods by the number of laborers, and add this value to the per-person consumer goods already possessed by the populace. This value is then compared to the original per-person value to find its percentagecomparison, and is also compared to the value for the previous month, to see if it has increased or decreased.
The population arrives on the world with a base value of consumer goods as shown on the table below (these are brought by each colonist in his or her personal effects, and are assumed to have no volume or mass for shipping purposes). This value declines 2% per month (multiply by 0.98 each month), and must therefore be augmented by new production. The base value of these goods per person varies by tech level as seen by the table below, where "Home TL" is the tech level of the world from which the colonists are drawn.
SL Political DM Percentage variation
from original value
Within 5% —/— —/-1 Within 6 - 10% +1/-1 +1/-1 Within 11 - 20% +1/-1 +1/-2 Within 21 - 30% +1/-1 +1/-3 Within 31 - 50% +1/-2 —/-4 Within 51 - 100% +1/-2 —/-5 More than 100% +1/-3 N/A
Consult the following table to find the political DM. The table reads out in DMs for increase over last month/decrease since last month. For example, a colony with a base level of Cr500 per person had Cr435 last month and Cr450 this month. Cr450 is 90% of Cr500, so is within 6 - 10%. The SL increased since last month, so the DM is +1.
Political Table D20 Result and Output DMs Track Movement -5 Coup Attempt, -5 Down 2 levels -4 Severe Riots, -4 Down 2 levels -3 Assassination Attempt, -4 Down 1 level -2 Severe Riots, -3 Down 1 level -1 Strikes, -3 Down 1 level 0 Riots, -2 — 1 Strikes, -2 — 2 Boycotts/
— 3 Boycotts/
— 4 Dissatisfaction, -1 — 5 Dissatisfaction, -1 — 6 No Effect — 7 No Effect — 8 No Effect — 9 No Effect — 10 No Effect — 11 No Effect — 12 No Effect — 13 No Effect — 14 No Effect — 15 No Effect — 16 +1 DM, one random sector — 17 +1 DM, one random sector — 18 +1 DM, one random sector — 19 +1 DM, one random sector — 20 +1 DM, all sectors — 21 +1 DM, all sectors — 22 +1 DM, all sectors Up 1 level 23 +1 DM, all sectors Up 1 level 24 +2 DM, all sectors Up 1 level 25 +2 DM, all sectors Up 2 levels 26 +2 DM, all sectors Up 2 levels
The political roll is made monthly and is an index of the current popularity of the colonial leadership. (This roll is intended for use in PC-led colony operations, and is less suited for NPC-led societies, although its use in these cases is up to the referee.) The results of this roll reflect the current attitude of the populace, and this attitude will affect the following output roll as happy people do more work and unhappy people do less.
The roll on the Political table will yield a DM to use on one or more of the output rolls for the current turn, and may direct a change in levels on the Political Track. The Political Track always starts out on Level 3: Good when a colony is established.
Die Modifiers: Die modifiers are provided from other results in this section:from the satisfaction indices, from random events,from low-level roleplaying results, from the monthly persuasion roll, from the political table itself, and from the current level on the political track. In addition, there are two permanent DMs that can result from the incorporation of criminals or undesirables in the colony population (see the Colony chapter for discussion). For every 1% of the colony population (round fractions up) composed of criminals, a permanent -1 DM. For every 5% of the colony population (drop fractions) composed of undesirables, a permanent -1 DM.
Political Track Level DM Level 1: Excellent +3 Level 2: Very Good +2 Level 3: Good +1 Level 4: Fair — Level 5: Marginal — Level 6: Poor -1 Level 7: Bad -2 Level 8: Terrible -3 DM: Die modifier applied to
roll on Political Table
on turns when that
political level is in effect.
Dissatisfaction: Small segments of the economy are unhappy with current conditions. -DM shown applies to only one sector (1-2: agriculture, 3-4: materials, 5-6: industrial)
Boycotts/Slowdowns: Small segments of the economy are sufficiently unhappy that they stage work stoppages or disrupt other workers. -DM shown applies to only one sector.
Strikes: Many workers are unhappy and stop work. -DM shown applies to materials and industrial only, not agriculture.
Riot: Groups of the population engage in violence to express their dissatisfaction. -DM shown applies to all economic sectors.
Severe Riot: Rioting causes significant property damage, destroys 1D20 units of capital in any one sector. -DM shown applies to all economic sectors.
Assassination Attempt: As violence continues to escalate, small, disorganized group or individual attempts to kill colony leadership. Referee's discretion, low-level roleplay is recommended. -DM applies to all sectors.
Coup Attempt: Organized group attempts to take over government from current leadership. Referee's discretion, low-level roleplay is recommended. -DM applies to all sectors.
Output Roll D20 Output
1 0.80 11 1.0 2 0.85 12 1.0 3 0.85 13 1.0 4 0.90 14 1.05 5 0.90 15 1.05 6 0.95 16 1.10 7 0.95 17 1.10 8 1.0 18 1.15 9 1.0 19 1.15 10 1.0 20 1.20
The Output Roll
Roll once for each of the Agricultural, Industrial, and Raw Materials sectors.The result is the multiplier used on the sector's output for that month.
- From Political Track and Political Roll (above)
- From Random Events (above)
- Controlled Econom, DM -1 (see sidebar)
- If population is Acclimatization Stage 1, DM -4
- If population is Acclimatization Stage 2, DM -3
- If population is Acclimatization Stage 3, DM -2
- If population is Acclimatization Stage 4, DM -1
- If population is Acclimatization Stage 5, No DM
THE MONTHLY TURN
Each month, the following things must be done:
- Roll on the standard random events tables plus the scenario-specific random events tables, if applicable.
- Assess the impact of the events and play out any roleplaying that is associated with handling these events
- Assess the impact of the roleplaying or decisionmaking in response to the events
- Carry forward political table die modifiers from the previous turn, such as standard of nutrition, standard of living, standard of shelter, malcontent population, etc.
- Roll on political table with all appropriate DMs
- Play out any dictated events from the political table, including roleplaying responses to same
- Carry forward and total up all DMs that will apply to the output rolls
- Roll the Agricultural Output roll
- Roll the Industrial Output roll
- Roll the Materials Output roll
- Total up the amount of rations, including those stockpiled and those newly produced
- Allocate rations to population for the current month
- Allocate rations to other areas, such as animal-powered transportation, ration stockpiles, agricultural production of raw materials, or other purposes, such as friendship donations to neighboring powers, etc.
- Allocate rations for off-world export
- Calculate and record the standard of nutrition of the colony used on the next turn
- Carry forward remaining stockpiled rations
- Calculate the quantity of energy produced, based on the amount of raw materials received, and other inputs for wind, hydro, or solar power
- Allocate energy to industrial and raw materials sectors for the current month
- Total up the amount of raw materials produced
- Allocate raw materials to the agricultural, industrial, and energy sectors for the next month
- Allocate raw materials to other areas, such as armed forces, stockpiling, etc.
- Allocate raw materials for off-world export
- Carry forward remaining stockpiled rations
- Calculate the quantity of industrial output produced, broken down into heavy, light, and construction
- Allocate production to new capital goods, and convert low tech capital to higher level
- Allocate production to maintenance
- Allocate production to new infrastructure
- Allocate production for off-world export
- Allocate production to armed forces
- Allocate production of consumer goods to population
- Calculate and record the standard of living of the colony used on the next turn)
- Calculate and record the standard of shelter of the colony used on the next turn)
- Based on new capital production, calculate new economic capacities for following turn
- Assess the need for new infrastructure to support load level
- Reassign laborers within or across economic sectors, if necessary
- Calculate the amount of currency generated by off-world export
- Make purchase of off-world goods, equipment, weapons, etc.
- Make purchase of off-world maintenance
The 11 Billion Dollar Bottle of Wine
The Possibilities of Interstellar Trade
This article originally appeared in Ares nr. 12 (Jan 1982), a science fiction/gaming magazine published by SPI. I was a contributing editor at the time. Despite its age, it holds up quite well, I believe.
Given what scientists say about the probability of intelligent life in the galaxy, it seems almost inevitable that, sooner or later, we will come into contact with another technological species. We can expect that the same kind of interrelationships which existed between primitive peoples on our planet will occur between the two species.
There are basically two ways which individuals or groups can interact—peacefully and violently. Peaceful interaction implies voluntary exchange between two groups which benefit both—that is, trade. Violent interaction implies the attempt by one group to coerce the other—that is, war. Much attention has been paid to the second possibility in the gaming field, but only recently has much been paid to the first.
The reason trade exists is that different groups are efficient at doing different things. For example, let us say there are two countries, A and B. A takes 15 man-hours to make a widget, but only 5 to make a thingummy. B takes 5 to make a widget and 15 to make a thingummy. Suppose each country produces as many thingummies as widgets, and each has 100 man-hours to allocate. Each will then produce 5 thingummies and 5 widgets ((5*15) + (5*5) = 75 + 25 = 100 man-hours). If A and B now open trade, each may concentrate on producing the item which it produces more efficiently; A will produce thingummies and B widgets. Since a thingummy costs A 5 man-hours, it can produce 20; similarly, B produces 20 widgets. They trade 10 thingummies for 10 widgets, since each wants as many thingummies as widgets. The final result is that each country has 10 thingummies and 10 widgets and each is twice as well off as before. (Indeed, trade is even in the best interest of both when one party has an efficiency advantage in both products, because trade will allow him to shift production into areas where his efficiency is greater.)
One problem not taken into account in the above analysis is the cost of transportation (and other barrier costs, such as import and export duties) which raise the cost of doing business with another group. Let us say that it takes 5 man-hours to transfer a unit of widgets or thingummies from country A to country B or vice versa. Each country will then have to allocate 10 man-hours to each unit of a good transported to the other country, and 5 to each unit consumed at home. It is still more efficient for A to concentrate on making widgets and B on making thingummies. However, the best A can do is to make 14 widgets (70 man-hours) and transport 6 to B (30 man-hours) while B does the reverse. Each country is still better off engaging in trade than not, but not as well off as they would be if transportation were costless.
This is, of course, an extremely important result for interstellar trade because the costs of transporting anything over interstellar distances is bound to be high, even given some kind of faster-than-light (FTL) drive.
In essence, in order to make trade in a good worthwhile, the cost of creating a good in one location and transporting it to another must be less than the cost of creating it in that distant location. To determine what interstellar trade (if any) is feasible, there are then two questions we must answer, at least in principle: 1.) what are the costs of interstellar transportation, and 2.) what are the costs of production in a highly advanced civilization capable of interstellar trade? Neither question can be easily answered, but we can, at least, make some conjectures.
In the simple analysis above, we assumed that the cost of production or transportation could be measured in "man-hours." For any more sophisticated investigation, this is inappropriate. An hour of a PhD's time is worth considerably more than an hour of an unskilled laborer's time. Furthermore, such things as the relative efficiency of production machinery (and other capital goods) and the cost of resources cannot easily be measured in man-hours. That is the primary reason why money exists—because it is an easy tool to measure relative costs.
Extrapolating costs into the future is difficult or impossible because technology constantly advances—changing both costs and relative costs—population trends are not entirely predictable, and the cost of resources may change dramatically as terrestrial resources become scarcer and extraterrestrial resources begin to be exploited. However, the cost of transportation is dependent on three primary factors: the cost of building and operating transport vessels, time, and energy required for transportation.
The first factor is very difficult to figure, but the second two are easily calculable, at least for sublight travel. Given a particular transportation system, it is possible to calculate the amount of energy needed to move something from point x to point y in a given amount of time. This will be discussed in more detail later.
Ignoring the cost of maintaining and building a transportation system, the amount of energy needed to transport a unit of mass is roughly proportional to the cost of transporting it. Thus, the less energy transportation requires, the more likely trade can occur and the more commodities it is profitable to trade.
Time is also an important factor, because the longer it takes to transport a good, the further in advance an investor must put up his capital before he will see a return. At sublight speeds, interstellar transportation will necessarily require between 10 and 10,000 years for a round trip. In America, there are few companies who are willing to wait even 10 years for an investment to provide a return. Government tends to think in even shorter terms; the insistence of Congress on space programs which produce short-term return and its reluctance to engage in projects that may prove immensely profitable over a period of decades, but costly in the short-term, is an example of this thinking.
Quite apart from this psychological reluctance to think too far ahead is the very real economic cost of delayed return on investment. When determining whether an endeavor will be profitable, an investor must keep "opportunity costs" in mind. If an investor has a choice of two investments, both profitable, and chooses the one which is less profitable, he has, in real terms, lost money; he could have made more by taking the more profitable investment. If one can earn 17% of one's money in a money market fund, and investing in a small game company is likely to produce a profit of 10%, there is no reason to invest in the company.
If, say, an investor can earn 10% of his money per year by investing in his own planet, over a period of ten years he can increase his wealth by 160%. To be profitable, an interstellar trading voyage would have to generate more profit than this. So the high time required for interstellar voyages result in high opportunity costs. (In 100 years, at 10% an investor would have increased his wealth by more than 15,000 times.) High opportunity costs combined with high transportation costs make interstellar trade extremely (though not necessarily prohibitively) expensive.
Energy Costs of Sub-Light Travel
Many different interstellar propulsion systems have been proposed, and the energy required for each is different. Since we want to encourage interstellar trade, it behooves us to make relatively optimistic assumptions. In Ares nr. 1, John Boardman investigated the times and costs in energy entailed in using an anti-matter drive capable of 100 percent conversion of energy into gamma rays, accelerating off reaction from such conversion. It is possible to conceive of even less costly drives—such as a ramscoop which gathers its reaction mass en route—but Boardman's drive is at least theoretically feasible while the ramscoop concept has some real technical problems. The Boardman anti-matter drive can then be taken as the most optimistic drive for sublight transportation.
Boardman derived a formula to determine the mass ratio needed between the initial mass of a ship and the mass of the final payload (see table below) assuming the ship accelerated to a given speed, coasted at that speed, and decelerated to rest at its target. He also derived a figure (5704 megawatt-years) for the amount of energy required to produce a kilogram of anti-matter. Combining these two, we can determine the amount of energy needed to accelerate a ship to a given speed and then decelerate to rest. Evidently, the higher the "coasting" speed, the greater the initial investment and the faster the ship will get to its target.
Historically, the US economy has grown at an average annual rate of 3% (corrected for inflation) over the past 150 years. If we assume that net human growth will continue at the rate of 3% in the future, we can calculate the opportunity cost of tying capital up in an interstellar voyage by assuming an average 3% rate of return were the capital invested at home. Obviously, the longer the voyage, the higher the opportunity cost. Compound interest mounts up very rapidly.
The important point is that the opportunity cost goes down if the maximum velocity of the ship goes up (because the ship gets to its destination and back sooner, so the interest is compounded for fewer years). The initial investment goes up, however as the maximum velocity of the ship goes up (because more energy is required to accelerate it to a higher velocity). Evidently, there is, for a voyage of a given length, a maximum velocity at which the minimum net cost is achieved. Table 1 shows the minimum costs for voyages of several lengths between 5 and 100 light-years.
Table 1: Minimum Cost Journeys Using Anti-Matter Drive Distance Velocity Time Invest
5 .23c 43.9 6,820 2.99 3.66 25,000 10.9 10 .38c 53.4 14,000 6.13 4.85 67,900 29.7 25 .59c 86.0 32,800 14.40 12.70 417,000 183.0 50 .74c 136.9 64,900 28.40 57.20 3,710,000 1,630.0 100 .84c 240.2 120,000 52.60 1,120.00 145,000,000 63,600.0
- Distance: distance in light-years from earth to star.
- Velocity: maximum velocity of ship as percentage of speed of light.
- Time: time for a round trip in years.
- Invest (MY-yrs): initial investment in megawatt-years per kilogram.
- Invest (1981$): initial investment in billions of 1981 US dollars per kilogram.
- OM: opportunity multiple.
- Cost (MY-yrs): total cost in megawatt-years per kilogram.
- Cost (1981$): total cost in billions of 1981 US dollars per kilogram.
Assumptions: The figures in this table are drawn using the following assumptions: Boardman anti-matter drive; refueling at destination; vehicle mass neglected; 100% efficiency drive; acceleration = 9.8 m/sec2; rate of return on investments at home is 3% annually; $.05 in 1981 dollars per kilowatt-hour ($438,000 per megawatt-year).
The cost of the energy needed to move a kilogram of matter at the minimum cost velocity of 0.23 times light-speed to a point 5 light-years away and back is 6,820 megawatt-years, which at average American prices of 5 cents per kilowatt hour works out to about $3 billion in 1981 dollars. When including opportunity costs, the total cost rises to about 25,000 megawatt-years, or about $11 billion. Costs increase rather more than linearly; the total cost of a 100 light-year trip is about $64 trillion dollars (about 20 times the US Gross National Product in 1981).
Actually, $11 billion is not bad when one considers that the Apollo program cost around $10 billion. To look at the energy figures, the initial investment of 6,820 megawatt-years is about 3% of the installed electrical generating capacity of the US as of 1975 — it would take 6 fairly large nuclear plants operating full-blast for a year to produce the antimatter needed for the trip. That is a lot of energy, but it is by no means beyond our capabilities. (Of course, the technology does not exist at the moment, and is likely never to exist at least in the idealized form postulated by Boardman.) This limitation implies that sending miniaturized, robot probes to the nearer stars is well within the realm of feasibility and will, barring nuclear war or some other catastrophic end to human civilization, probably occur sooner or later.
However, the cost is per kilogram, which means that human beings are unlikely ever to go to the stars, given the mass entailed in the life support system necessary to keep a human alive for several decades.
Standards of Living
Eleven billion dollars is a lot of money — or is it? We have postulated that the economy will continue to grow, world-wide (or perhaps I should say solar-system-wide), at a rate of 3% per annum. Many countries have growth-rates higher than this (and quite a few less), so it seems a reasonable presumption — assuming 1.) technology continues to advance, 2.) we begin to exploit the vast resources available in the solar system off earth, and 3.) economic growth does not get choked off by the continued growth of parasitic government at the expense of the productive sector of the economy (the last is the most questionable assumption).
As an example, let us say that the average individual on the earth commands about $1,000 per year (the figure is probably somewhat, but not much, lower, averaged over the earth's population). Figure 1 shows how much money individuals will, on the average, be able to command in the future. Talking of "money" in this context may be confusing; we are talking, actually, about the resources, energy, and goods which an individual commands. The average individual will be able to command $1 billion in about 500 years — which means he will be able to afford the equivalent of a Cray computer and a fleet of space shuttles. He will not be able to hire huge numbers of domestic servants — because the average servant will, after all, make somewhere around $1 billion himself.
Real economic growth comes from technological advances that permit increased productivity. Mechanization, division of labor, computerization, robots, etc., mean that fewer and fewer man-hours are needed to produce a given good, and thus that individuals can be paid more (in terms of goods and services) than they could be paid under less productive arrangements. There may be a limit to this process, but we are nowhere near it; indeed, mechanization of services (as opposed to industries) has only begun to occur with the computer revolution. Economic growth means a greater ability to command goods and services; it does not mean a greater ability to command others.
Some things, however, are not susceptible to growth of this kind. There are only so many Rembrandts; the soil of Burgundy can only support so many grand cru vineyards. If a Rembrandt sells for $1 million today, when the average income is $1000, it will sell for $1 trillion when the average income is $1 billion. (All things being equal.)
Historically, per capita energy consumption has been very closely linked to economic growth. Both have increased in the US at an average rate of around 3%. Consequently, as standards of living increase, the amount of energy which an individual can command increases -- and his ability to contribute to what now seems an incredibly expensive sublight trading mission increases. If an average income of $1 billion does not make everyone able to own a Rembrandt, it does make it much more possible to engage in interstellar trade. If a Rembrandt sells for $1 trillion, spending $11 billion to import the equivalent of a Rembrandt from Alpha Centauri does not sound so bad.
How reasonable is it to expect that per capita incomes will increase a millionfold over the next 500 years or so? Assume that the population increases at a rate of 2% per annum (roughly the current global average). Total energy use will increase at a rate of 5% (3% per capita plus 2% increase in population). Current total world consumption of energy is around 8 x 109 MW-years per year. The sun puts out about 1.28 x 1020 MW; in 500 years at a growth rate of 5%, humanity would consume a little bit more than twice the energy produced by the sun (and the human population would be about 8 x 1013, eighty-thousand billion people). It seems unlikely that we could produce enough energy to provide the equivalent of a second sun for humanity. However, if we assume that the population would level off at 100 billion people, humanity would consume about 5 x 1017 MW, about 1/2% of the sun's output. Thus, if we solve the population problem sometime in the 22nd Century, all will be well and our children will be billionaires.
Assume that this picture is over-optimistic. Assume that the $11 billion/kg is off by a factor of ten, and that a better figure is $100 billion/kg. Even today, such a cost, though huge, could be paid. And barring the collapse of civilization, growth will continue. The relative cost of interstellar trade should decline. Doubtless, it will never be as common as trans-Atlantic traffic is today; nonetheless, it seems feasible.
We said that in order to determine the feasibility of trade in a given good we would have to know 1.) the cost of transportation and 2.) something about the cost of production of the good. The first question we have answered, and the second we can talk about. If the standard of living has increased a millionfold, what this really means is that the cost of goods has decreased a millionfold. If per capita income increases from $1,000 to $1 billion, an individual can command a million times as much energy or resources. Effectively, we are holding the dollar cost of goods constant while increasing the number of dollars available to individuals.
This being so, it is obvious that common resources and products are not going to be worth trading over interstellar distances. Spending 25,000 MY-years to import a kilogram of lead makes no sense. What might be worth importing?
First, perhaps there are extremely valuable resources which cannot easily be produced in our solar system: monopoles, or superheavy metals, perhaps (if such things exist at all). If, however, there are monopoles on Alpha Centauri because the Centaurians can manufacture them, it is likely that it will be more efficient to purchase the techniques from them rather than to import monopoles.
Which brings up the point that manufactured goods of any kind are probably not worth trading, because given the high costs of transportation, selling the manufacturing technology makes more sense than trading in the goods themselves. What does this leave?
This leaves goods the value of which is not transmittable, which cannot be described and reconstructed, but have somehow intrinsic value. A Rembrandt can certainly be described and the Centaurians could certainly print copies of Rembrandt paintings from information we send them, but those copies would not be the originals. Lithographs sell for prices about 5 orders of magnitude less than originals. Originals have intrinsic value; any copy, no matter how perfect, is but a copy.
So one possible category of trade objects is luxury items, not only objets d'art, but such things as exotic wines and liqueurs and the like. (I refuse to believe that any reproduction technology, no matter how sophisticated, can reproduce the bouquet of wine to the complete satisfaction of a wine snob. The future may see the trillion dollar wine.)
The last category of goods it might make sense to trade is genetic information, or something similar. Given sophisticated genetic manipulation techniques, getting the raw material — the genetic codes — of alien species might prove extremely beneficial, especially if the species is very alien in biology. By manipulating such beasties, we might be able to engineer new genetic products that could not be created with the genetic material available on earth. On the other hand, the genetic code is a code; and one day we may be able to read the precise order of amino acids on a strand of DNA, and thus be able to precisely describe a gene to an interested party. There is, naturally, a hell of a lot of information encoded in even the simplest bacterium, and transmitting this much information might be difficult. On the other hand, radio data transmission rates have increased by several orders of magnitude over the last few decades, and it may be that we will be able to transmit instructions for building genes in the future, thus obviating the need for trade in genes.
In summary then, though human civilization is likely to be engaged in interstellar trade, there probably will not be much worth trading, since any society capable of doing so on a major scale can probably produce almost anything it needs at home. Trade in esoteric and extremely rare resources like superheavy metals might be possible; genetic material is another possibility. The most likely trade good would seem to be the relatively frivolous trade in luxuries.
Trade via Radio
There are immense gains to be made from trade with other stars through exchange of information. A space-going civilization is almost certain to have developed technologies which we have not, and vice versa. Exchange of scientific information would also be worthwhile, and surely both our cultures would be enriched by exchange of the artistic masterpieces of our two heritages. Such trade would not require physical transportation of objects, however; a more likely possibility is telecommunication. Getting into radio contact with another civilization would be extremely profitable to both of us, and the cost to operate a large radio transmitter would be immensely less than the cost of operating an interstellar trading vessel.
This kind of trade, however, cannot be built on a direct, bargained exchange. If it takes, say, ten years to send a message and get a response, making a deal would be an effort requiring a lifetime. If making a profitable exchange necessarily requires first coming to an agreement on the terms of that exchange, information will be exchanged at a very slow rate. Instead, it seems likely that both of us will transmit whatever information we think the other might find useful or interesting, transmitting other information as requested. In essence, as Asimov suggests in one of his stories, we will both be talking at once. Whether this kind of exchange can even be termed "trade" in the classical sense is debatable, since there is no agreed exchange of items of value; but it is certainly a voluntary arrangement benefitting both parties. It is also evidently the most cost-effective and simplest way to deal with alien friends.
Trade Faster than the Speed of Light
In this article, I have talked about the possibilities of sublight trade at some length. Trade in FTL vessels may be a more interesting topic, despite the fact that FTL will probably never exist.
The problem is that any FTL drive will necessarily depend on physical principles of which we have not the slightest glimmer at the present time. Consequently, we can not make any assumptions and have no real way of speculating about the costs of such trade or the forms which it will entail. The basic principles, however, remain the same. The lower the cost of transportation of goods, the more trade will go on. One expects that any mechanism for traversing distances measured in light-years is going to be very expensive, even if it involves (or perhaps especially if it involves) somehow transcending Einsteinian mechanics. Consequently, interstellar trade is always likely to be limited. The fact that travel can occur at trans-light speeds means that opportunity costs are much reduced, of course; the cost of building and operating an FTL-drive ship, however, cannot even be guessed at.
Calculating the Cost of Interstellar Trade
The cost C of a round trip is equal to an opportunity multiple (OPm) times the investment required to make the trip. The opportunity multiple arises from the fact that investment could be made at home instead, and is equal to:
OPm = (1 + I%)2T
where T is the time required for one leg of the journey (out or back) and I% is the rate of return possible if the money were invested at home instead of on the interstellar voyage.
Ignoring the cost of building and maintaining a ship (as well as the costs of overhead, employees, etc.), the investment required to send a sublight trading mission using the Boardman anti-matter drive is calculated from:
I = 2 * Rm * P * 5704 MWy/kg
where I is the investment, Rm is the number of kilograms of anti-matter required per kilogram of payload, the factor "2" entering because anti-matter must be purchased at the destination before the return trip (doubling the cost), and 5704MWy/kg is the amount of energy (in megawatt-years, MWy) required to produce a kilogram of anti-matter. For a one-way trip, the value of Rm is:
Rm = ( c + u - 1) c - u
assuming the ship is capable of refueling at its destination, where c is lightspeed (3 x 105 km/sec) and u is the maximum velocity of the ship.
Cost C is then:
C = (1 + 1%)2T * ( c + u - 1 ) * 2 * P * 5704MWy/kg c - u
T, however, is a function of u, the maximum velocity. If we plug an equation for T into the equation for C and assume values for u and I%, we can calculate the cost per kilogram of trade goods. T is calculated from:
T = d + 2 * [ c2 + (1 - u2 )-1/2 * (u - c2 ) ] u g u c2 u
where d is the distance to be travelled and g is the rate of acceleration.
One of the interesting things about the equation for C is that the opportunity multiple decreases as u increases (because the journey takes less time) while the investment increases as u increases (because more anti-matter is required). This implies that there is, for a given set of conditions, some maximum velocity u at which minimum cost is achieved.
Table 1 shows minimum costs for a number of journeys of different lengths.
This section is basically a rough outline of Rick Robinson's Interstellar Trade: A Primer. You'd probably be better off reading the full article but some people want executive summaries. Rick starts with certain assumptions and follows them to various conclusions about the interstellar economy. You can alter some of the assumptions yourself to tweak the economy to suit your science fictional background.
Merchant Starship Costs
Assumption: starships in the interstellar empire are equivalent to present-day jet airliners. They go fast, can carry lots of people and cargo, and are the most advanced technology that can be massed produced.
The ticket prices will not be similar between airliners and starships because FTL interstellar travel will probably take more than a few hours for the trip. Therefore the starships will do fewer trips per year than airliners, so the starship passenger ticket price (and cargo waybill) will have to cover a larger share of the starship's yearly expense.
For comparison purposes we need an airliner's average cost of running, but the corporations are remarkably closed-lipped about that. Using a long series of estimations whose details can be found in Rick's article he concludes that the annual operating cost for an airliner is about $30 million (not counting fuel, landing fees, and taxes). An airliner's purchase price is $100 million so one year's uses costs about one-third of the purchase price.
A cargo jet can carry 50 tons so its purchase price is about $2 million per ton of cargo capacity.
Assumption: starship purchase price will only be about $1 million per ton of cargo capacity instead of $2 million, because starships are orbit-to-orbit, need no landing gear, need no wings, can use lighter structure because they accelerate under 1 g, and we will assume they can carry twice as much cargo per deadweight (inert mass) as a cargo jet.
Assumption: cargo starship operating cost is similar to cargo jet. Therefore it costs $300,000 per ton of cargo capacity per year to run a cargo starship. This ignores taxes, station docking fees, and fuel. Assumption: starship fuel is cheaper than cargo jet JP-4 fuel. Big assumption since JP-4 is about $1.39 per gallon.
(ed note: starships are going to require lots of infrastructure.)
Assumption: the service life of a merchant starship is 30 years. So the starship initial purchase price is about 1/10th of the overall lifetime service cost ($1 million / (30 * $300,000)). Actually it will be closer to 1/5th due to the interest on the purchase loan. With creative maintenance, the service life might be longer than 30 years, see below.
Question: how many cargos can a merchant starship carry in 1 year? That is, assuming a full cargo turnover at each port of call, how many one-way runs can the ship make?
Assumption: a one-way trip takes three months. From departure planet orbit to FTL flight to arrival planet orbit. This is comparable to the Age of Sail.
Assumption: each trip requires one month for servicing, maintenance, selling the cargo, buying new cargo for the next run.
This makes each trip four months from departure to departure, or three cargos per year. This means the ship owner must earn $100,000 of profit per ton of cargo. That is, selling price at destination MINUS purchase price at origin must be $100,000 or more. Therefore if the cargo was available for free at the origin the minimum selling price at destination is $100,000 per ton, or $100 per kilogram. The implication is that only very high value cargo can be profitably shipped interstellar.
Assumption, average of 1/2 of retail price goes to shipping cost. Therefore the minimum price of interstellar imported goods are $200 per kilogram.
The implication is that the only things shipped interstellar would be luxury goods, items with a very high value per weight. Jewelry, spices, fine liquor, designer-label clothing. Maybe some high value per weight industrial goods, such as microchips. Not high mass items such as sports car, not with a $100,000 shipping charge added to the car's price. Bottom line is that you are not going to ship bulk goods like wheat, not at $100,000 per ton you ain't.
Assumption: the Gross Planetary Product (GPP) of a colony planet is $100,000 (about three times that of present day USA). If 2% of citizen income goes to imported luxuries and high-value capital goods, it comes out to $2000 per capita, with $1000 going to shipping cost.
Assumption: Colony planet population is 10 million. Therefore the total shipping cost of imported goods is $10 billion.
Calculating backwards, this implies that 100,000 tons of interstellar cargo arrives at the colony planet annually. The colony must export the same amount or it will run a trade deficit and import prices will rise. This is because if they don't export, the cargo starships cannot find cargoes to transport and sell at the next destination. Starships with empty cargo holds cost nearly as much to run as with full holds. They will have to make up the shortfall somehow, so they will raise the price of what they sell at this planet.
Take simplest model: two planets trading with each other. Each year, 100,000 tons moves in each direction, or 200,000 tons total.
Assumption: average cargo starship carries 1000 tons. This is less than seagoing cargo ships, but more than cargo airplane. This means there has to be 200 annual cargo loadings and unloadings to accommodate 200,000 tons.
Since each ship can make 3 one-way legs per year, then each ship will do three loadings. The implication is that the two planet's combined merchant fleet is between 65 to 70 ships.
Of course if each ship carries more than 1000 tons then fewer ships are needed. If the ships can carry 5000 tons then you would only need 13 or 14 ships. In practice this would not work very well, since the larger the cargo hold, the more difficult it is to find enough cargo on the planet to fill it.A trade network of a dozen colony worlds will support a few dozen to a few hundred cargo ships depending upon cargo hold size.
Airliners carry about four to five passengers per ton of equivalent cargo capacity. However airliner trips are only a few hours. Interstellar passengers cannot live in their seats for three months.
Assumption: Each interstellar passenger berth equals one ton of equivalent cargo capacity. This includes the passenger, their baggage, the berth, apportioned galley/diner space, and food.
The direct result is that the cost of the passenger ticket is the same as the cost of one ton of cargo: $100,000. You are not going to get much tourist traffic, not at those prices. A few rich people and business travellers.
Problem: you must have large scale passenger traffic for the colony network to exist at all. In a word: Colonization.
$100,000 per colonist is prohibitive. Probably several times that for extra stuff like tractors and horses. Even worse, since the new colony will not have any exports, the cargo starship will have not cargo buy for the next trip. So the starship captain will have to charge round-trip prices for a one-way trip. It could total to around $1 million per colonist.
The problem is that our assumptions have made it so that only millionaires can afford the ticket, but millionaires do not want to go live on some jerkwater frontier world. Sending 10,000 colonists to a new world could cost $10 billion, which is a huge amount for private industry or governments to spend, regardless of the potential value of the planet.
Our price schedule has made interstellar colonization unlikely in the first place.
We will have to change some of the assumptions. Lucky for us, there is some room to bring the costs down. We can make the merchant starships cheaper, or make them faster. We shall do both.
Assumption: annual starship service cost is $100,000 per ton of cargo capacity, not $300,000. This is reasonable, since starships are not stressed as much as airliners (at least not orbit-to-orbit starships).
Assumption: starship purchase price is $500,000 per ton of cargo capacity instead of $1 million, since starships are build for long-haul reliability.
With the 30 year service life, the purchase price is now 1/6th of the total lifetime service cost instead of 1/10th. Within interest payments this may be closer to 1/3th.
Assumption: a one-way trip takes 35 days instead of three months. This means the cargo starship can deliver 10 cargoes per year instead of three. Assume 27 days is transit, 8 days is for servicing, maintenance, selling the cargo, and buying new cargo for the next run.
Crunching the numbers, the minimum profit per ton of cargo or passenger ticket is now $10,000 instead of $100,000.
The cost for colonists (provisions and no return cargo) is probably about $100,000 or less. That's more like it. In the reach of the middle class. This price schedule makes interstellar colonization viable.
Note that the same ten-fold cost reduction can be had by making the one-way trip 12 days but keeping the original $300,000 annual cost.
Our colonization-viable starships will also increase interstellar trade. Shipping cost of $10,000 per ton means the threshold cost of imported goods is about $10 per pound. Only $10,000 shipping cost for a sports car. But no bulk cargo, not when oil's shipping cost will be $1500 per barrel. As with all freight the rates will vary. Higher value merchandise will support higher shipping charges. A long-term fixed contract (allowing ship owner to have dependable regular cargoes) will get a lower rate. Standby cargo will get a better rate, if the ship is making a run anyway, it is better to have full cargo holds.
If imports are still only 2% of CPP, the volume of goods will increase ten-fold. The shipping capacity will only have to increase three-fold since starships now deliver three times as much cargo per year. Since shipping costs ten times lower (so a wider range of goods are worth importing) then the import-export sector can expand in total value of goods shipped as well.
Assumption: an inverse square-root rule applies here, so reducing the shipping costs by a factor of 10 will increase spending upon imported goods by a factor of 3.
This means 6% of CPP now goes to imports. High, but not out of reach for a mature trading zone. So a colony of 10 million will have an annual export and import of 3 million tons per year.
Each trade starship can pick up and deliver 10 cargoes per year, so they need a net cargo capacity of 300,000 tons. For a trade network of 12 colonies, the combined merchant marine needs a capacity of some 3.6 million tons. Most ships will still be small (but bigger than jumbo jets) to facilitate filling their cargo holds, but the heaviest-traffic routes will support some bigger ships.
Assumption: say the trade network's merchant fleet is:
|Type of ship||Number|
of one ship
|Total cargo capacity|
|Large||75||20,000 tons||1,500,000 tons|
|Medium||300||5000 tons||1,500,000 tons|
|Small||400||1500 tons||600,000 tons|
If there is no FTL radio, then some of the small freighters will sacrifice cargo capacity for speed (i.e., acceleration), in order to become something like an interstellar FedEx or pony express. The idea is to reduce the normal space transit time. Actually this might be a better job for an unmanned drone, they can take higher acceleration than human beings.
Passenger traffic is only a fraction of total cargo volume (unless there is a colonization effort underway). Freight makes a profit for somebody, passengers are pure expense to whoever pays their ticket. Perhaps passengers are 1% of total volume, makes 360,000 passengers per year. A few routes may support scheduled passenger service (probably in small ships). But most will ride in cargo bays (like railroad sleeping cards), in freighters, or in spare crew quarters.
Ship mass and size
Full load mass and physical size depends upon assumptions about fuel mass ration, fuel bulk, etc.
|Deadweight (inert mass)||1||17%|
Note that total mass is three times the cargo capacity. As you can see, deadweight is the ship proper, structure, engines, anything that is not cargo or propellant.
With this assumption, the big freighters will have a fully loaded mass of 60,000 tons. The largest ships might be twice as big: 120,000 tons.
Our building cost is $500,000 per ton of cargo capacity, the mass assumption makes a building cost equal to $1 million per ton of deadweight. Annual service cost is $100,000 per ton of cargo capacity, the mass assumption makes the annual service cost equal to $200,000 per ton of deadweight. The starship hulls are not cheaper, but they can carry more cargo in proportion to their structural mass.
|Type of ship||Cargo capacity||Purchase price|
|Large||20,000 tons||$20 billion|
|Medium||5000 tons||$2.5 billion|
|Small||1500 tons||$750 million|
At $500,000 per ton of cargo capacity, largest giant freighter cost $20 billion to build, but it it has a cargo capacity of 200 Boeing 747 jets, and accounts for over one percent of whole fleet's cargo capacity all by itself. Small freighter costs $750 million, and has seven time the capacity of 747.
With a 30 year service life, the combined shipbuilding yards of the 12 planet trade network will turn out about 25 ships per year.
Hulls will last longer than 30 years but the equipment wears out and has to be replaced. Ships go back to the yards for an overhaul every decade or so, but eventually the cost of stripping everything and replacing it will exceed the value of the ship. Depending upon overhaul costs the shipyards may make more money on rebuilding than on constructing brand new ships. Some ships will stay in service for many decades. Others will be retained as the futuristic equivalent of naval hulks or the old passenger equipment that railroads use as work trains. Every big commercial space station will have a bunch of these old ships in the outskirts.
If modular design is taken to its limit, "ships" will have no permanent existence. Instead they will be assembled out of modules and pods specifically for each run, much like a railroad train. In that case, a ship's identity is attached to a service, not a physical structure. Example: the Santa Fe "Chief" was identified by a timetable and reputation, not a particular set of locomotive and cars.
The analysis up until now focused on money and economics. Businessmen only care about how long it takes to deliver the cargo and how much transport costs, they could care less about the scientific details of the ship engines. But authors care.
As with everything else, it all depends upon the assumptions. Your assumptions will be different, so feel free to fiddle with these and see what the results are.
Assumption: the time spent in FTL transit is zero (jump drive). For the FTL segment of the transit you can use whatever you want, as long as the details do not affect the analysis. The main thing is that the required time spent in FTL transit will add to the total trip time, and thus the number of cargoes a starship can transport per year.
Assumption: starships use reaction drives for normal space travel.
We know that the mass ratio is 2.0. So the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation tells us that the starship's total delta V will be the propulsion system's exhaust velocity times 0.69 (i.e., ln(2.0) ). Since starships accelerate to half their delta V, coast, then decelerate to a halt, their maximum speed is half their delta V, or exhaust velocity times 0.35 (i.e., ln(2.0) / 2). In practice you would accelerate up to a bit less than half their delta V in order to allow a fuel reserve in case of emergency.
It will be even less if the FTL drive happens to use the same type of fuel that the reaction drive does. Basically part of the fuel mass will have to be considered as cargo, not propellant, which will alter the ship's mass ratio.
|Reaction drive||Exhaust velocity|
|Nuclear powered Ion||~100 km/s|
|Fusion||a few thousand km/s|
|Beam core matter-antimatter||about 100,000 km/s|
( 1/3 c )
We have assumed that the ship spends 27 days in route (with an instantaneous FTL jump), so the outbound and inbound legs are 13.5 days each (1.17 million seconds).
Assumption: the acceleration on each leg is constant. In reality at the same thrust setting the acceleration will increase as the ship's mass goes down due to propellant being expended. The thrust will probably be constantly throttled to maintain a constant acceleration. Makes it easier on the crew and easier on our analysis. The implication is that obviously the average speed will be half the maximum speed (which is half the delta V)
|Reaction drive||Exhaust velocity|
or Early Fusion
|400 km/s||130 km/s||75 million km|
|Advanced Fusion||10,000 km/s||5000 km/s||20 AU|
|c||0.3 c||350 AU|
(x5 Pluto's orbit)
|8 g !!!|
These figures will be lower if time is consumed in FTL flight, maybe be only Terra-Luna distance
Propulsion system's thrust power is thrust times exhaust velocity, then divide by 2. To get the thrust, we know that thrust is ship mass times acceleration. The ship mass goes down as fuel is burnt. As a general rule for ship mass, figure that it only has 2/3rds of a propellant load. That is, multiply the total ship mass by 0.83. So our 120,000 metric ton ship would have a general rule mass of 120,000 * 0.83 = 100,000 metric tons (100,000,000 kilograms).
|Reaction drive||Exhaust velocity|
or Early Fusion
|1.08×107 N||2.16×1012 W|
|Advanced Fusion||10,000,000 m/s|
|4.3×108 N||2.15×1015 W|
|7.65×109 N||1.15×1018 W|
(1 million terawatts)
Where does fuel come from and who does it get into the ship's fuel tanks? Easiest if it is obtained locally at the destination's solar system. The economics of interplanetary transport is same as interstellar (since we did a lot of work making interstellar a cheap as interplanetary).
if fuel from a gas giant at a distance comparable to Terra-Jupiter and round trip is to only take weeks, interplanetary tankers will need speeds of around 1000 km/s. So tankers will be almost as expensive as starships. If tankers use low speed (to make them cheaper), the round trip balloons to a year or more. To service the starship fleet's thirst for fuel, tankers will need to be huge or there will have to be a lot of them. Either way, fuel shipped from gas giants ain't gonna be cheap.
If we forgo interplanetary tankers and instead have starships make extra leg to the local gas giant to refuel, it will cost you more than you will save.
The alternative is shipping fuel up from destination planet. Yes, we know about how surface to orbit is "halfway to anywhere" in terms of delta V cost. But in order to colonize space at all, surface-to-orbit shipping cost will have to be cheap anyway. The industrialization of space will start with using space based resources, but eventually surface-to-orbit will have to be cheap or there is no rocketpunk future. Laser launch, Lofstrom loop, space elevator, something like that.
Assumption: surface-to-orbit shuttle economics are equivalent to current day airliner economics. Round trip to LEO and back is about two hours (not counting loading/unloading). With loading/unloading and maintenance, figure 4 flights a day. Implication is that a round trip passenger ticket is $250 and round trip freight service is $1000/ton (which is +10% added to interstellar transport costs)
Fuel is not round trip, it only goes from surface to orbit, but shuttles have to go orbit to surface in order to get the next load. You will have to streamline the process. High capacity pumps to minimize load/unload times, crew-less shuttle. You might be able to squeeze fuel lift cost to $500/ton. So if starships carry 1.5 tons of fuel per ton of cargo, surface-to-orbit fuel lift costs adds $750/ton to interstellar shipping cost.
So total surface-to-orbit overhead is $1000/ton + $750/ton = $1750/ton or 17.5%. This is an ouch but not a show-stopper.
Back to starships. How big are they?
Present-day maritime tonnage rule: 1 registered ton = ~3 cubic meters.
Assumption: 1 ton = 3 m3 applies to fuel and hull (e.g., crew quarters, engineering spaces, etc) as well as cargo. Therefore, if the absolutely hugest cargo starship in service has a cargo capacity of 40,000 tons (twice that of a large cargo starship), then:
Volume of a sphere is 4/3πr3, so the radius of a sphere is 3√(v/(4/3π)) or
radius = CubeRoot( v / 4.189)
diameter = (CubeRoot( v / 4.189)) * 2
Assumption: a "cigar-shape" for a spacecraft is a six times as long as it is wide, with the proportions indicated in the diagram above. The center body is a cylinder 1 unit in diameter (0.5 units radius) and two units high. The two end caps are cones of 0.5 units radius and 2 units high.
If the monstrous cargo starship is spherical, it would have a diameter of 88 meters. If it is cigar shaped then length = 300 meters and diameter of 50 meters.
A 1500 ton cargo capacity tramp freighter would have a wet mass of 4500 tons and a volume of 13,500 m3. Spherical shape would have a diameter of 30 meters, cigar shaped length = 100 meters long and diameter of 17 meters.
Modular ships dimension would be similar but a bit larger due to being assembled out of component parts.
This is very difficult to estimate.
Since each crew has same berthing requirement as passengers, each crew represents one ton = $100,000/year in lost revenue capacity. Therefore crew will be kept as small as practical.
Operating crew: pilot-navigator and engineer for each watch. Plus life support specialist/medic, cargo-master, and captain. Total of nine. Small ships might squeeze this to four or five. Big ships might double up with assistants and trainees for 20 to 25.
Maintenance technicians will be needed. Ships are en route for a month or so at a time. Unlike aircraft, maintenance can't all be done during layovers. Time is money, you do not want to hold off departure because station tech has not finished some routine servicing. So techs will be carried to do maintenance during the flight. Assume (conservatively) 1 tech embarked per $100 million in construction cost (i.e., stuff to be maintained). So small ships will have a maintenance crew of seven or eight (total crew of ten or twelve). Largest ships in service might have total crews up to 250. Scut work (swabbing decks and peeling potatoes) will be done by junior crew. As has been the case since time began.
Hotel Staff: passenger-carrying ships will need crew for hotel-type services (stewards, chefs, etc.), but not if passengers are colonists (fend for yourselves, steerage scum!). Coach class could make do with one for every 10 passengers. First class would have one for every 2 or 3 passengers (and the ticket price would reflect this). If a typical ship has 1 percent of cargo given over to passengers, the required hotel staff could increase the crew by about a third. Naturally the hotel staff will be looked down upon by the operating and tech crew members. On a passenger ship the hotel staff will vastly outnumber the rest of the crew by some 30 to 1.
Orbital high ports
These are primarily starship ports and service bases, though they may have other functions.
With our current assumptions, at a given time 3/4ths of the ships are en route, the rest are in port. So at the stations of the dozen colony worlds there will be docked about 15 cargo ships. One or two would be large cargo ships. A cargo ship will arrive and depart about three times a day.
Orbit-to-surface traffic is heavy. If each shuttle can carry the load of a 747 jet, about 100 arrive and depart each day. If starship fuel is shuttled up from surface, some 150 daily tankers arrivals are needed as well (if 4 daily flights per shuttle, about 65 physical shuttles are needed).
This is for a typical station. The busiest station in the trade network might have twice the traffic volume.
At any one time we might expect to find 200 to 300 off-duty starship crew at a typical station (probably all in bars). Unlike airports, passenger traffic is small. 200 or so arrive and depart each day. Passenger shuttles will also carry station crew, ship's crew going sightseeing, so there will be a few daily passenger flights.
A station is a ship without a drive engine, so its capacities can be estimated the same way.
If 10% of the overall cost of the merchant fleet goes to support the stations (since the stations maintain the ships) then the stations taken together will have about a tenth of the fleet's deadweight mass, or 180,000 tons all told. A typical station would then have a mass of 15,000 tons, not counting cargo awaiting loading, fuel in storage tanks, etc. But stations are likely to grow by accretions over the years and become sprawling structures extending hundreds of meters in all directions.
Using same estimates for cargo ships, the maintenance crew of an average station would be about 150. However, stations provide the major ship maintenance, so they probably have about as many technicians altogether as the ships themselves do. They alone will multiply the station population by tenfold; support staff and miscellaneous services might double it again, so a typical station could have some 3000 workers. The largest stations might have two or three times as many.
Living quarters will be nearly as expensive ship quarters, but frequent shuttle fare also add up. The income from shuttle fare can be used to subsidize living quarters rent, so many people could live on board, even with families. Station could be a cosmopolitan orbiting town.
The entire space-faring population of the trade network, ship crews and stationers, come to well over 50,000, maybe as many as 100,000 (out of a total population on 12 colonies of some 120 million). The space economy as a whole however employs many times more. If the merchant marine industry accounts for 3% of the economy it will also employ 3% of the workforce, 2 million people. With a similar number employed in the import/export industries.
The expense of a trade-protection navy is an insurance premium charged against trade.
Assumption: the insurance premium to fund the navy is 10% of total value of trade.
Say the 12 colony network is a trade federation and the insurance premium for defense is 10% of total value of trade (this setup could just as well be one planet monopolizing trade, in which case the navy protects the franchise. We will call it a federation anyway). Half the value of trade goes to support the merchant fleet (the other half is initial purchase cost of shipped goods) therefore the cost of the war fleet will be about 1/5 of the merchant marine
Assumption: warships have the same relationship to cargo ships as cruisers do to ocean liners or jet bombers to airliners.
Instead of cargo, warships carry weapons, sensors, armor, more powerful engines, and greater fuel capacity. Ton for full-loaded ton they are more expensive than trade ships (maybe x2) but cost per deadweight ton is about the same since technology going into it is similar. (some present day warplanes have higher cost-to-mass ratio than jetliners. This is due partially to "gold-plating" of weapon systems and partial due to false economies such as small orders that reduce production efficiencies. We will assume that a navy funded by merchants will not allow such expensive stupidities)
Assumption: For first approximation, scale down merchant marine by factor of 5 to get war fleet.
- 1 battlecruiser per 5 heavy freighters
- 1 cruiser per 5 medium freighters
- 1 corvette per 5 small freighters
This will give the following order of battle:
- 15 battlecruisers
- 60 cruisers
- 80 corvettes
This may or may not be balanced, substitute as needed.
(ed note: for a discussion of what Rick Robinson means by those three ship classes see his analysis here)
Space navy combat starships will require auxiliary starships to support them: food supply ships, ammo and missile supply ships, repair ships, hospital ships, fuel ships, etc. So some of the cruisers and corvettes in the order of battle will have to be traded for auxiliaries of various kinds. Some civilian cargo ships can be requisitioned in wartime for auxiliary missions (such as tankers). Depending upon technology and threat level, it might be feasible to fit cargo ships with weapon pods instead of cargo and use them as armed merchant cruisers. And warships might be fitted with cargo pods to become very well-armed transports.
Assumption: a warship's deadweight mass is 1/3rd (0.33) of loaded mass (propellant always dominates a reaction-drive spaceship's mass). You could call the deadweight mass the Washington Treaty Mass.
Assumption: the following deadweight mass values in the following table.
Assumption: warships are always cigar shapes because Hollywood hates spheres
We have already assumed that purchase cost of a spacecraft is $1 million per ton of deadweight. We have also assumed that each ton of loaded mass equals 3 m3 of volume.
Result of assumptions:
|Battlecruiser||30,000 tons||10,000 tons||$10 billion||90,000 m3||200m × 30m|
|Cruiser||7500 tons||2500 tons||$2.5 billion||22,500 m3||120m × 20m|
|Corvette||2000 tons||700 tons||$700 million||6000 m3||75m × 12.5m|
Corvette are the length of a 747 or C-5 Galaxy but larger diameter. Very close to space shuttle in launch configuration. Since corvettes will have a surface landing module (for gunboat diplomacy) they may even look like space shuttle stack (with a big winged thing stuck on the side). Merchant express mail couriers might be a civilian version of courvette.
During peace time war fleet has lower operating tempo than merchant marine. May spend half their their time docked instead of the one-quarter that merchants do. This saves operating expenses. The savings allows greater procurement, so they are replaced and retired from active duty after 20 years instead of 30. Then they go into a mothballed reserve force for another 20 years, so reserve is the same size as active fleet. As with cargo ships, warships might undergo top-to-bottom overhauls and remain in service longer.
Crews are larger in proportion than for cargo ships. Operating crew will be augmented with offensive and defensive weapon controllers, scan/ECM, and communication/intelligence; larger ships will have in addition a command staff.
The maintenance technicians will be larger per unit cost because they have to repair battle damage, during or after the battle.
Of course there is no hotel staff.
Some warships will carry a landing force of marines or espatiers. Due to berthing cost and limited space (mass ratio of 2.0, remember?) there won't be many marines, but they will be highly trained (SEALS).
Crew numbers will be higher if they have a landing strike team embarked
This is not a huge crew force. about 10,000 for the entire fleet, with probably a similar number on shore duty at any given time. Add in the marines and the total wearing uniforms is still no more than 25,000 to 30,000. Perhaps with a similar number of civilian employees.
Defense spending for running the fleet (by far the largest budget item) is a modest $72 billion, 0.6% of trade federation's combined GPP. In a prolonged major war this would expand greatly. But this is supported by trade. If the cost of trade protection (the insurance premium) approaches or even exceeds the value of trade itself, there will be a collapse of political support.
Operations in a trade war will be primarily in space. If large scale planetary landings are required, cargo ships can be pressed into service as troop transports. Light infantry is roughly equivalent to civil passengers: 1 ton equivalent cargo capacity per soldier. However heavier equipment, shuttles to carry troops/gear/provisions to surface, armed shuttles for close air support, will all be required. So for an invasion force, 3 ton equivalent cargo capacity per soldier, not counting the naval escort.
If 1/10th of the entire merchant marine is gathered as an invasion force it can transport and land 120,000 light troops, less if heavy equipment is required. But 120,000 troops is a pretty big force to invade a planet of 10 million people.
Suppose instead of 12 worlds, the empire had a thousand worlds, each with a population of 100 million. Then all the above can be multiplied by a factor of over 800. Improved technology will increase size and number of ships. If typical ships is x3 in linear dimensions they will be x27 greater in mass, and fleet can have x30 as many of them.
Large cargo starships: if spherical 300m diameter, if cigar 1,000 km long. Cargo capacity 1 million tons. Full-load mass of 5 million tons each. Empire will have about 1000 ships of that size (and some larger). It will have 50,000 medium cargo ships with cargo capacity of 20,000 tons, and hundreds of thousands of smaller vessels.
Great hub-route stations will have population in the millions.
Navy battlecruisers will be 1 km long, full-load mass of 3 million tons. Build cost $1 trillion. Crew of 30,000. Empire will have 125 battlecruisers in the fleet. It will have thousands of cruisers with a full-load mass of 100,000 tons. Naval budget can be held down to $60 trillion.
100,000 worlds with average population of few billion each. The scale factor is another x3000. You can do the math yourself.