Implications of Molecular Nanotechnology Technical Performance Parameters on Previously Defined Space System Architectures

A paper to be presented at the The Fourth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology


Tom McKendree
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The full paper is available at


Minimum technical performance parameters for molecular nanotechnology are estimated in (Drexler 1992a). Preliminary indications are that molecular nanotechnology will greatly increase capabilities for space operations (Drexler 1986, 1988, 1992b), but published implications are not worked out in sufficient detail to develop wise plans for the transition to molecular nanotechnology based space operations.

One difficulty in examining architectures for space operations that exploit molecular nanotechnology is that the performance of an architecture has meaning only in the context of an operation concept and grand strategy, which in turn depend upon the competitive environment. Any technology as dramatic as molecular nanotechnology, however, is likely to alter the structure of that environment so much as to require dramatic changes in operation concepts and grand strategies.

On approach is to iterate between the various levels of technical capability, systems architecture, operation concepts, and grand strategy. This would be a substantial effort over years.

There currently is a wealth of technical descriptions for space system architectures which do not rely on molecular nanotechnology performance parameters. The next step in the iterative process towards understanding the general implications of molecular nanotechnology for space operations is to take these descriptions, and assess their capabilities when using the performance parameters of molecular nanotechnology. This paper will present a survey of space system architectures, assessing how their performance would increase if they exploited the estimated capabilities of molecular nanotechnology. It will include some thoughts on the implications for grand strategies and operational concepts for space activities, and on the implications for issues in molecular nanotechnology that have particular leverage on space applications.