Moonshot entrepreneur Elon Branson funds a migration to space. Instead of spending billions of developing safe space technology, he instead finds volunteers and shoots them in to space with no plan to get them down. If they can figure it out, they become a new civilization, if they can't they die. Being superbly human, and very interested in survival, the colonists cling on for years before mastering their environment and thriving.
The technological situation is this:
- There has been no great advance in space launch technology.
- Rockets are still very expensive, its hard to get things into and out of space.
- The colonists are almost completely self-sufficient by now.
- They drag small stray comets and asteroids to industrial stations for materials.
- They build habitation and agricultural stations, mostly in the vicinity of Earth (HEO, Moon orbit, Earth-Moon L-points) using the materials from the comets and asteroids.
Details on capabilities
The colonists have perfected the engineering of plasma rocket technology like VASMIR or MPD, and developed effective, lightweight deep space radiation shields. They can make space tugs with ~10kN net thrust and a delta-v of over 100 km/s; they can move 1000 tons between Earth/Mars in about 200 days, to Saturn in about 2 years. They use 0.75g gravity by spinning habitation stations, and most of their agricultural/industrial production is done by robots.
Other than the stuff mentioned above the technology level is mostly the same as today. Computing power is greater but, having reached the limits of Moore's law, is not exponentially greater than today. The numbers of the colonists are in the hundreds of thousands. Habitat stations are in the 100m-1km range with a few thousand at most living inside. Most live in stations around earth, but colonists are spread around the solar system on various expeditions. They stay out of gravity wells, and try to avoid building/fueling the chemical rockets needed to get off even medium sized moons. Their industrial capacity is advanced, with lots of cutting edge 3-d printing technology. Their agriculture is self sufficient, but expensive to expand (since it means building more stations)
Launching things into space is expensive, as is sending things from space down to Earth (in way so that it survives its descent). In light of this:
- What trade would actually occur between the colonists and the Earthlings?
- What would the colonists most want from Earth?
- What could the colonists make/obtain more cheaply than could be found on Earth?