Joss Delage

World's most ambitious privately funded projects

51 posts in this topic

Hi,

I am interested in putting together a list of the world's largest / most ambitious private projects - bridges, highways, dams, oil drilling platforms, buildings, etc, etc.

One goal of this is as ammunition against the current claim that some projects are too big to be funded by anyone but the government. Another goal is just to make me feel good and proud... :)

Thanks,

Joss

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Virgin Galactic - Richard Branson's space tourism venture that intends to build 8 (I think) spaceshipone ships in partnership with Burt Rutan. I gather a new agreement has been announced that would allow Mr Rutan to sell his models to others companies in the same way lockheed or airbus do.

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I am interested in putting together a list of the world's largest / most ambitious private projects - bridges, highways, dams, oil drilling platforms, buildings, etc, etc.

One goal of this is as ammunition against the current claim that some projects are too big to be funded by anyone but the government.  Another goal is just to make me feel good and proud...  :)

I'm going to mention Meteor Crater because natural sites, like the close-by Grand Canyon National Park, are usually government owned and operated. The Meteor Crater site and surrounding area has been privately owned since 1902, and the private touch is apparent in everything from the extra-clean bathrooms to the quality of the really well-stocked gift areas. The huge crater itself was presumably formed some 50,000 years ago, the handiwork of a giant meteor impact. The crater has a circumference of about 2.4 miles, and is more than 550 feet deep. My son and I visited the Grand Canyon and Meteor Crater on the same trip, and we were actually more impressed by the Crater than the Canyon!

Off the beaten track, out in the desert. A lovely place to visit, and privately owned and run!

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Here's my personal favorite:

Liftport, the space elevator

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Thanks. I like the Metor Crater example best, as it is already in exercise (whereas the 2 others are projects).

My entry is going to be for the Millau Viaduc, in South of France.

Site from the construction group: http://www.viaducdemillaueiffage.com/

It has 7 pillars, from 77m to 245m high (higher than the Eiffel tower) - they add up to 205,000 metric tons of concrete. It is 2,460m long (1.6 miles).

Eiffage (the company that built it) financed the bridge for 300-400 million Euros ($399-532 million). It will charge a toll of 4.60 euros in the low season and 6.50 euros in July and August for cars using the bridge, part of the A75 highway linking Clermont-Ferrand to Beziers. Trucks will pay 19 Euros.

Eiffage has a 75-year concession to operate the viaduct and has guaranteed the structure for 120 years.

Millau_Bridge_over_Tarn_River_France.jpg

Millau_Bridge_in_heavy_fog.jpg

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If you're looking for big things, there are some huge mines that are privately developed, owned and run. Two in particular come to mind.

The first is the Binghan Canyon copper mine, in Utah, which is the largest man-made excavation in the world - 2.5 miles wide and 1/2 mile deep. The mine is over 100 years old. In WWII, I read that it produced 1/3 of the copper used by the allied armies. In addition to copper, the ore contains significant amounts of gold, silver and molybdenum. You can read more about it HERE.

The other one, which I visited once, is the borate mine in the aptly named town of Boron, in Southern California. Its pit is not as big as the Bingham Canyon mine, but this mine too is significant, in that it produces about half of the world's borates today. (Their visitor center is good - one gets a fine panoramic view of the whole mine.) You can read more about it HERE.

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Joss Delage, thanks for posting those pictures----a joy to behold.

Those pics and some of the details were communicated to the HBL by John Withrow. All credit to him.

I agree that this is a gorgeous realization.

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Hello All,

Chimney Rock in NC is another example of a privately owned natural attraction. It has possibly the best scenic views in the entire Appalachian mountain range. Similar to Stephen's description of Meteor Crater, it has good clean bathrooms, nice gift shops, a restaurant, even an elevator to get to the top! I think it's a $5 entry fee.

Also in NC, The Biltmore House and Winery is a very beautiful privately owned attraction. It's the largest privately owned home in the US, and a sight to behold. Mr Vanderbilt had excellent taste! Tickets are $35 or more, if I remember correctly, but totally worth it. It's one of those places you have to see before you die.

--Dan Edge

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I am taking a guess here, but I believe that Disney Land is privately funded. I know it is a bit off from the other choices, but it is amazing. Every time I go there the place is spotless. The cobblestone roads do not have a single bit of garbage on them. The bathrooms are very neat and clean, which is a big positive for someone who is there all day. The people are very well mannered and helpful at pointing one in the right direction. The characters are also very well trained, in that they act very much like the cartoon characters. The rides are always changing and they are constantly developing new ideas while keeping great things around like Cinderella, my wife and daughter love her. I have to pay for five people every time I go along with food and souvenirs, but it is worth every cent.

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A privately funded rocket and a privately funded space station pop into mind ...

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In your judgment, do you think there is any realistic chance that the mission will be accomplished before the deadline?

Hmmm. That's a good question. Take my answer with a grain of salt. Just two short years ago I was convinced that nobody would ever win the X-prize.

From a technical standpoint, the problem posed here is at least an order of magnitude more difficult than a sub-orbital hop. Not only does the winner have to reach four times the altitude, but they have to gain a velocity of about 7.5 kilometers per second to reach orbital speed. Then they have to shed the energy associated with that speed. Just reaching an apogee of 400 kilometers and a "sporty" perigee which will cause the orbit to decay in hours or days -- and even predicting this is far from a science, but a black art -- is precluded. The winner must reach an orbit defined by Bigelow that will last at least six months. I'm betting that's 400x400 circular, even in a trough in the solar cycle.

In addition, the winner has to demonstrate the ability to rendezvous and dock. This places enormous operational constraints on the mission design and hence the spacecraft design. I'll have to leave that last sentence as a floating abstraction, because I wanted to give a quick and dirty answer to your question. There are so many blanks to fill in on the rendezvous question, that to try to do that I would need a charge code. :)

It is easy to answer no to your question.

But two years ago, I had no idea of how easy hybrid propulsion is -- at least for the purpose of winning the X-prize. And most importantly, I had never laid eyes upon SpaceShipOne or the White Knight. That's one major unknown -- what work of genius remains to be unveiled?

My favorite to win this prize is Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin simply because he is the furthest along and with the deepest pockets. But still, accomplishing this in less than five years will be a tall order.

But in ten? I think so. And to write that I am more optimistic about private space exploration than I have been in years.

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I too am optimistic about private space development, now. Long ago I was a member of the L5 Society, and mostly lost interest when I realized that there were no serious private ventures, after L5 disbanded. But Rutan & co. have shown what's possible when the damned government gets out of the way and permits brilliant ideas to actually be implemented in action, at a radically lower price than the absurdly bloated NASA bureaucracy. This was real world proof that cannot be evaded out of existence, and Bezos and others with the resources will now show what's possible when businessmen lead the way rather than bureaucrats. I expect it will be an exponentially increasing expansion once the first routine private spacecraft begins service and shows what's possible.

I can even imagine that it will not be NASA with their ridiculous multi-hundred billion dollar estimates, but a private company, that will first land men on Mars. I thought years ago that you could probably underwrite a lot of such a venture (if it was rationally, privately, priced) just by sending Martian soil back to earth and selling it in small batches for souvenirs and scientific research. (As well as the Moon, for that matter.) I expect it would be far cheaper to be able to send such inanimate payloads, which would require no life support complexities and cost. Send a few talented artists too - they could supply a stream of painted Martian landscapes (and representations of the colony) that would undoubtedly sell for very high prices, which the corporation would receive a cut of. etc. etc. ...

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I too am optimistic about private space development, now. Long ago I was a member of the L5 Society, and mostly lost interest when I realized that there were no serious private ventures, after L5 disbanded. But Rutan & co. have shown what's possible when the damned government gets out of the way and permits brilliant ideas to actually be implemented in action, at a radically lower price than the absurdly bloated NASA bureaucracy. This was real world proof that cannot be evaded out of existence, and Bezos and others with the resources will now show what's possible when businessmen lead the way rather than bureaucrats. I expect it will be an exponentially increasing expansion once the first routine private spacecraft begins service and shows what's possible.

I can even imagine that it will not be NASA with their ridiculous multi-hundred billion dollar estimates, but a private company, that will first land men on Mars. I thought years ago that you could probably underwrite a lot of such a venture (if it was rationally, privately, priced) just by sending Martian soil back to earth and selling it in small batches for souvenirs and scientific research. (As well as the Moon, for that matter.) I expect it would be far cheaper to be able to send such inanimate payloads, which would require no life support complexities and cost. Send a few talented artists too - they could supply a stream of painted Martian landscapes (and representations of the colony) that would undoubtedly sell for very high prices, which the corporation would receive a cut of. etc. etc. ...

If a company lands on a planet can they claim all rights to it? Who needs more motivation than that!!

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hmmmm, there's no one to guarantee any rights on the planet - as first human there you'd kind of be responsible for establishing civilization - so you probably couldn't claim it as your own. However you'd have the first hand in setting up constitution etc - you'd be your very own founding father....unless of course you bought a boat load of marines and the legislature with you :)

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Having said that...presumably there would come a time when so much space was populated that any given barren planet would be no more than a barren plot of land - law enforcers quite capable of accessing it.

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My favorite to win this prize is Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin simply because he is the furthest along and with the deepest pockets. But still, accomplishing this in less than five years will be a tall order.

I had never heard of them before. The little they write on their website expresses an interesting attitude and spirit, but no detail in the way of facts. Is there another public source of information on them?

But in ten? I think so. And to write that I am more optimistic about private space exploration than I have been in years.

That's really good to hear. I don't know enough of the details of all the private work that is going on, but I am certainly glad to see such optimism from one who is aware of the facts.

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My favorite to win this prize is Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin simply because he is the furthest along and with the deepest pockets.

Is he really? I used to work for Amazon, and I have a healthy dose of respect for Bezos, but I didn't know they had published anything as to their progress .. or even as to what their specific goals are.

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If a company lands on a planet can they claim all rights to it? Who needs more motivation than that!!

I think there are international treaties that specifically say that this cannot be done. I regret that, and I'd love to be corrected on this. I think those treaties say that space and planets are "for all mankind", etc.

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I think there are international treaties that specifically say that this cannot be done.  I regret that, and I'd love to be corrected on this.  I think those treaties say that space and planets are "for all mankind", etc.

COSPAR (Committee On Space Research) is a sanctioned committee of the ICSU (International Council for Science), a pretentious organization of scientific political thugs which is a "partner" to the Untied Nations. You can read the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy here. NASA is a proud participant ( :) ) in the UN treaties that have been passed since 1967, regulating what we can do, and how, in solar exploration.

I say someone go to the Moon and Mars and plant their own flag, for it will be eons before the United nations makes it to any outer space other than the one in which their pathetic ideas reside!

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If a company lands on a planet can they claim all rights to it? Who needs more motivation than that!!

That idea of Martian ownership by the first to set foot was proposed by, as far as I know, Harry Binswanger (though Heinlein wrote about this for the Moon many decades ago), and it's an interesting idea, but it would require official recognition by various Earth governments, especially the U.S., to be meaningful. Since Earth for the forseeable future constitutes where human civilization actually exists, I don't see any way around getting such recognition if any such claim were to have practical meaning, unless the colony goes the way of Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, establishing independence through war.

It would be naive to think that the U.S. government would go for any such recognition. First, it was morally disarmed long ago, agreeing to various bad socialist space treaties that undermine the idea of private property rights in space. (One can always hope that a future government would repudiate such treaties.) Secondly, and more essentially, I would not forsee Mars as some planetary extension of America's territory. It makes the most sense to have it be a sovereign new country, with the original pioneers owning all of it and able to sell pieces to newcomers. With official recognition as a new country, it could probably have enough time to build itself into a real government with the necessary arms to defend itself against challengers. Without it, it's doubtful that it would have the resources to defend its claim against newcomers, so it would be an empty claim.

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That idea of Martian ownership by the first to set foot (...) is an interesting idea, but it would require official recognition by various Earth governments
Really? Or would it only require that they not act? of course it would be useful to have a few recognitions, but otherwise I think it would suffice that other countries not take direct action.

Also, there are 2 issues at play here. One is the private property, and one is the political authority. maybe that would warrant a separate thread. You properly point that out in the 2nd part of your post.

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I had never heard of them before. The little they write on their website expresses an interesting attitude and spirit, but no detail in the way of facts. Is there another public source of information on them?

Is he really?  I used to work for Amazon, and I have a healthy dose of respect for Bezos, but I didn't know they had published anything as to their progress .. or even as to what their specific goals are.

Bezos is very secretive about Blue Origin. But he recently bought 15 square miles in West Texas to use as a test and launch facility. When you start building a test facility, you are pretty far along in the design. At the time he gave a few details. See here and here.

Another thing, the Blue Origin job listings page indicates that they are hiring specialized spacecraft subsystems engineers and technicians. Another sign of being well beyond the conceptual design stage. If I ever see an advertisement for an orbital dynamics specialist with experience in rendezvous and proximity operations, I'll know he is serious about orbital flight.

His schedule seems to indicate that he is not going for Bigelow's prize. Yet. After all, Burt Rutan was very secretive about SpaceShipOne until right before he was ready to start test flights. Just what Jeff Bezos has up his sleeve remains to be seen.

Oh, and I didn't mean to discount Virgin Galactic. It is just that they are currently working on SpaceShipTwo, and they will try to make money from sub-orbital flights to fund a SpaceShipThree.

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