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FTL (Faster than Light) travel exists,taking around 88 hours 48 seconds to travel 1 light year. FTL communications also exists and takes only 53.28 seconds to travel 1 LY (Light Year). Jumps longer than 10 LY at a time have not been tried,with the safe range being considered around 5LY due to the great stresses on crew and to a lesser extent the ship during subspace travel. This would be for the crew an 18 days and 12 hours long trip in subspace.

If humanity were to develop this technology in the year 2050,given current projected population growth figures which estimate a global human population at that point of 9.7 billion. And assuming we had the means to expand,how long would it take for humanity to colonize all systems within 30 Light Years of Earth?

Note these colonies need not be on a planet;but may instead be orbital colonies.

Edit 1:Currently within 30 LY of Earth there are confirmed to be 47 star systems,each averaging 2-3 planets in each. The actual number of star systems is likely closer to 72 due to a number of them being red and brown dwarf stars which are very faint in luminosity. Number of ships is going to be conservatively estimated at 10 for the first 30yrs. Jumping to 20,then 40,then 80,and so on with each following decade as orbital shipyards are more firmly established. Assume shipyards outputting 4.2 ships every 5 years. And there are 3 shipyards to start with 18 docking points.

Edit 2:Available resources starting out could be stretched to allow as many as 25 ships in the first 30yrs. However this would require a great deal of manpower being moved into Earth orbit and the shipyards being worked constantly for those 30yrs nonstop. Putting a constant drain on resources that could be reallocated to other uses. Assume one FTL capable ship is able to carry 4 shuttles. Each shuttle can safely land OR be used to help set-up an orbital colony. They each carry around 48 workers and equipment optimally. But a purely human and resupply load would be closer to 130 people per shuttle

Edit 3:Assume each colony establishes a new shipyard in system able to build new ships within 5 years of the colony being established.

To send 1 kg of mass out via FTL costs only 83 cents to start. Costing 54 cents after 25yrs when the system becomes more streamlined. Assume United States dollar values for now.

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  • $\begingroup$ There is missing information: how much does it cost to FTLship a unity of mass? What are the available resources, and at which rate are they produced? What is the minimum time between FTLships? How many FTLdocks and ships are there? How many systems there are within 30 LY? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Feb 3 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ Currently within 30 LY of Earth there are confirmed to be 47 star systems,each averaging 2-3 planets in each. The actual number of star systems is likely closer to 72 due to a number of them being red and brown dwarf stars which are very faint in luminosity. Number of ships is going to be conservatively estimated at 10 for the first 30yrs. Jumping to 20,then 40,then 80,and so on with each following decade as orbital shipyards are more firmly established. Assume shipyards outputting 4.2 ships every 5 years. And there are 3 shipyards to start with 18 docking points. $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Barrett Feb 3 at 6:01
  • $\begingroup$ Available resources starting out could be stretched to allow as many as 25 ships in the first 30yrs. However this would require a great deal of manpower being moved into Earth orbit and the shipyards being worked constantly for those 30yrs nonstop. Putting a constant drain on resources that could be reallocated to other uses. Assume one FTL capable ship is able to carry 4 shuttles. Each shuttle can safely land OR be used to help set-up an orbital colony. They each carry around 48 workers and equipment optimally. But a purely human and resupply load would be closer to 130 people per shuttle. $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Barrett Feb 3 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ write that in the question. Comments are easily removed. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Feb 3 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ @LDutch What do you mean by the way when you say "how much does it cost to FTLship a unity of mass?" Assume each colony establishes a new shipyard in system able to build new ships within 5 years of the colony being established. $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Barrett Feb 3 at 6:09
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I believe that humans will always go for the most profit. So to take numbers from your question let's assume 47 star systems in 30LY range which you are asking how long it would take to colonize them.

Well, it might take thousands of years, even though we (humans) would colonize 47 star system in just a few hundred years. My point is, it might be better to colonize system that is 50LY away than one that is 30LY because it has habitable planet/easily accessible resources/anything of value that the other star system doesn't have.

So we would probably expand based on the value of the system and not the time it takes to get there. Sure, time of travel is very important but I think not important enough to start expanding based on just that. Which means, we could colonize hundreds of systems outside 30LY range before revisiting the ones closer, probably only returning when their value is now better then expanding further.

Also, the rate of colonizing new systems also depends on profit. If colonizing new planets costs massive amounts of resource, the rate of colonization will be slow. If there are profits to be made, it will go faster. For example if it only costs money, we could colonize one planet every hundred years. And if there is profit, depending on the profit we could colonize a new planet every year.

It also depends on what you are imagining as colonization. Research station on planet surface/orbit? Or at least million people inhabiting the surface? Research stations can be fast to build, developing a large city/cities with so many people could take decades.

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  • $\begingroup$ Colonization in this case ranges from an orbital habitat overseeing research or mining of a few hundred to a few thousand individuals. With older permanent settlements developing to a size ranging from 10-30 thousand people on average. Planetside colonies are often considered more stable than orbital colonies;but their viability varies on the habitability of the planet as well as local dangers. The profits of colonization are (especially on resource rich worlds with no native life evident) complete exploitation of the native resources. This in turn can lead to very large profits for companies $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Barrett Feb 5 at 2:24
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Given that technology...we would never colonize all of the systems in 30 light years because, and I mean this sincerely most of them would be total garbage. There are 189 systems in the Internet Stellar Database in that range and that isn't even a complete count, but only maybe that are even possibilities for anything more habitable than Mars. They're too young or too small or they've got a freaking white dwarf in the mix and that's never good. We'd actually skip past most of them looking for the actually good ones.

And yeah, the real bottlenecks for colonizing even one planet are "whats the cost per metric ton of the cargo you ship?"

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  • $\begingroup$ Well,I learned about a super useful new site. And I thought around 8 within 40 LY were in the conservative habitability range? Also we are still counting orbital colonies. $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Barrett Feb 3 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ @JeremyBarrett An orbital colony cannot grow without an industrialised planet below. $\endgroup$ – Karl Feb 3 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ Karl - Suppose that an existing orbital colony is fitted with a FTL drive, thus becoming a colony ship, and travels to a system with an asteroid belt and mines the asteroid belt for materials to build more orbital colonies and produced food on them for their artificial ecosystems. A system without habitable planets can be colonized by orbital colonies. $\endgroup$ – M. A. Golding Feb 3 at 19:01

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