Several developments in the past year improved the possibilities for orbital space settlement.
Al Globus, a friend of This Orbital Life, published a number of papers showing that equatorial low earth orbit (ELEO, at roughly 500 kilometers) may be an area of low radiation. Far less radiation shielding may be needed for structures located there than for structures located in higher inclination orbits (like the International Space Station) or in other areas of cislunar space (like the Lagrange points). Because less material is needed, small settlements could be built in ELEO without requiring in-situ resource utilization. No lunar bases or asteroid mining will be necessary. In other words, everything needed to build a town in space could feasibly be boosted up from Earth.
According to new research, everything required to build a settlement could feasibly be boosted up from Earth, without the need for in-situ resource utilization.
This is not the only game-changing development. Al Globus, in separate research, shows that humans can likely tolerate far higher revolutions-per-minute in a rotating* space settlement. Higher RPMs mean a settlement can be smaller, further reducing the amount of mass needed to build a viable (albeit very small) settlement.
In the next post, bleeding-edge launch developments will be discussed. And they have nothing to do with chemical rockets.
*This Orbital Life is of the opinion that space settlements must generate some level of artificial gravity in order to provide the type of lifestyle that would attract large numbers of people to live in space. Living in microgravity is uncomfortable and unhealthy.