ASI W9700494r1.0

Moon Miners' Manifesto

#99 October 1996

Section the Artemis Data Book

High Altitude Aerospace Ports

Peter Kokh


In the last article, we suggested that it is conceivable that the least expensive per capita seat to orbit may be a vehicle that is booster- or track-launched from a high altitude near equatorial aerospaceport. Let's play with that idea for a moment - not with the launch track or other captive booster stage options- but with candidate sites.

If we look at existing international airports, making the problematic assumption that our trans-atmospheric spaceplane can take off and land within the typical boundaries of such facilities, what are the choices? They are not many. Most equatorial cities of size are ocean or river ports near sea-level. Here are the three best exceptions:

Quito, Ecuador 0x at 9,500 ft altitude.

Quito is the capital and second largest city of Ecuador with somewhat less than a million people. It is a minor hub with most air and sea traffic coming into the country via the larger, more cosmopolitan sea level port of Guayaquil. The flagship national airline serving Quito's Jose Marescal International Airport is Equatoriana.

Bogota, Columbia 4.4xN at 8,563 ft.

Bogota is the capital of Columbia and its largest city, already one of the megacities of the Third World urban tropics with over 5 million people and growing rapidly. While it is slightly less well situated than Quito in both latitude and altitude, it is by far the more important air traffic transportation hub. The flagship airline is Avianca.

If space-bound traffic grows, Bogota could make an ideal western hemisphere aerospaceport, serving North, South, and Central America, with travelers electing to spend several days taking in the sights of this beautiful, colorful, vibrant, and cosmopolitan city.

Nairobi, Kenya 1.5xS at 8,700 ft.

Nairobi is the capital and largest city in Kenya, in the process of suddenly becoming a Third World super city with several million people, ten times or more its size in colonial days. Nairobi is the air traffic port of entry for most travelers to East Africa. is the flagship national airline. If high altitude equator based transatmospherics turn out to be the most economic way for tourists to reach orbit, Nairobi could some day be the "Space Safarix" jumping off point for three continents: Africa, Europe, and Asia (which has no low latitude high altitude city.)

Nairobi has the added advantage of being on the southern flanks of Mt. Kenya, whose western slopes offer an ideal site for a launch track for space-bound high volume commodity cargoes.

All three of these equatorial cities have modern airports which accommodate any fleet jet. But if existing hub traffic is a consideration, Quito loses the Western Hemisphere race to Bogota.

Would the national airlines that serve these cities (Avianca, Air Kenya) expand intercontinen-tally to funnel most orbit-bound traffic through their home hubs? Or will the traffic be up for grab with other national airlines competing on a level playing field? Might the transatmospherics them-selves be owned by Avianca and Air Kenya, and thus be able to offer discount transfers to and from their hub feeder fleets? All these questions may be moot if the extra cost of airline flights to and from these equatorial hubs added to the cheaper cost of space passage from them comes up to a harder-to-swallow bottom line.

Yet there is more favoring the equatorial hub scenario than lower seat-to-orbit costs. Equatorial Earth orbit locations (hotels, resorts, and industrial parks), ideally suited for access from equatorial surface hubs, have a great advantage with a launch window to and from every 2 hours or so as opposed to once a day to and from cul de sac higher inclination orbits that maximize access from higher latitude space-ports like Kennedy and Baikonur. And it will be the equatorial orbit stations and depots which offer the most frequent launch windows and best fuel-saving advantages to and from the Moon and other deep space destinations like Mars.

Bogota and Nairobi Interplanetary Aero-spaceports could grow beyond their edge as space gateway cities for people. They could become the terrestrial centers of solar system trade, trade shows, import and export markets, mineral and energy exchange boards, and more. After all, that is how great cities become great, by leveraging an at first minor advantage in an ever diversifying and pyramiding fashion. Perhaps it is good that there are at least two prime candidate cities, not just one.

What if high altitude becomes moot, and any equatorial city can compete for the trade? That opens the door to Guayaquil, Panama City, Cali and Medellin, Caracas, and Belem in Latin America but Bogota should handle that competition with no problem. Douala and Kinshasa might compete limply in Africa. Half a world away off by itself, Singapore would surely become the gateway for all Eastern Asia and Australia. (Its national flagship carrier Air Singapore is already the world's top-rated airline with Milwaukee-based Midwest Express a distant fifth. Just thought I'd throw that in there with ISDC '98 in Milwaukee only 20 months off.) Even if the advantage is with the high altitude cities, Singapore may garner a respectable East Asian market, its sea-level handicap meaning fewer paying passengers (less gross weight) and higher fares per flight to orbit on compable equipment. MMM

Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto

Home Tour Join! Contents Team News Catalog Search Comm
Moon Miners' Manifesto is published 10 times a year by the Lunar Reclamation Society for Artemis Society International, several chapters of the National Space Society, and individual subscribers world-wide.
Copyright © 2001 Artemis Society International, for the contributors. All rights reserved. Updated Mon, Dec 15, 1997.
Maintained by Jeremy Kraemer . Maintained with WebSite Director.