Now George Nield, associate administrator of commercial space at the FAA believes the same thing can happen to that nascent industry, just like what happened to the railroads over 150 years ago:
“Would that be possible?” Nield asked the audience during a presentation here Wednesday (Feb. 29) at the 2012 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference. “If you recognize that every day in the United States there are more than 30,000 flights by commercial airliners, then maybe three or four rocket launches per day doesn’t sound too unreasonable.”
A ‘Moore’s law for launch’
Nield is pushing for this so-called “Moore’s law for launch” to become a national goal. The original Moore’s law, which is named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, holds that the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles every two years.
Nield proposed some ideas that he said could help make the annual doubling of commercial launches a reality. [Top 10 Private Spaceships Headed for Reality]
For example, the federal government could offer to pay companies a fixed price per pound to launch construction materials, food and water to the moon, and rocket fuel to low-Earth orbit. In addition to laying the foundation for future lunar colonies and orbiting “gas stations,” this effort could help the American private spaceflight industry get off the ground, Nield said.
The government could also help fund a commercial “rocket railroad” that launches frequently on a published schedule, whether payloads are ready to go or not.
“Even if you were launching empty, there would still be significant benefits in terms of maturing the vehicles, training and energizing the workforce and strengthening the industry as a whole,” Nield said.
An orbital rocket railroad might be a tough sell in these challenging economic times, but a suborbital version wouldn’t exactly break the bank. At going rates, the government could get 1,000 suborbital missions for about $200 million, Nield said.
“Tough sell” is an understatement to say the least, especially with “old space” GOPer industry autarchs in Congress keep throwing up road-blocks in order to funnel money to their Congressional Districts ( http://www.spacepolitics.com/2012/03/01/congressmen-seek-to-fix-safety-glitch-with-commercial-crew-program/ ).
Eventually a private industry launch service will emerge, once people see that the cost of launches come down.
Like all transportation industries in the U.S., the government may start them, but private enterprise will take them over when they see it becomes cost effective to operate.