January 28, 2012

Space technologies that would help enable a more affordable Permanent Moon Base

1. Fuel depots. 2-17 times more stuff to the moon or other space missions. Lowering costs for GTO closer to LEO orbit costs

Propellant fuel depot
Boeing Propellant fuel depot

2. Lunar concrete would reduce the amount of material needed to build things on the moon by ten times.

A 50 meter telescope could be built from lunar concrete, with the mirror covered with a thin layer of aluminum. It could directly image any potential continents on planets around nearby stars with no atmosphere on the moon to distort the massive light gathering area.

3. Successful Big and cheap rockets by Spacex or others

Spacex Falcon Heavy can bring launch costs below $1000 per pound.

Spacex is working achieve reusable rockets which would bring costs down to $50-100 per pound.

4. Bigelow - inflatable space stations
Bigelows planned habitable private space station

Bigelow Aerospace Lagrange point and lunar plans

If Bigelow Aerospace can get a full size inflatable station into orbit, then they can focus farther out into space. One of the key places in Bigelow's plan is a point about 200,000 miles (323,000 kilometers) out from Earth in the moon's direction, where the pulls of terrestrial and lunar gravity balance each other.

Bigelow would turn that region of space, called L1, into a construction zone. Inflatable modules would be linked up with propulsion/power systems and support structures, and then the completed base would be lowered down to the moon's surface, all in one piece.

Once the moon base has been set down, dirt would be piled on top, using a technique that Bigelow plans to start testing later this year at his Las Vegas headquarters. The moon dirt, more technically known as regolith, would serve to shield the base's occupants from the harsh radiation hitting the lunar surface.

5. Vasimr
The Vasimr 200kw unit is almost flight ready

1-2MW Vasimr lunar cargo vehicle could transfer up to 39% of the mass from low earth orbit to the moon.

6. Solar electric sail

A simplified picture of the electric sail. An actual system would have 50 to 100 or more 20 kilometer wires. 100 kg spaceships could be accelerated to final speeds of 40-100 km/second. A demo version of the solar electric sail should go into space this year.

The electric sail could be used as a tug for moving things robotically to and from low earth orbit to lunar orbit or to the moon or to and from asteroids.

7.Power source breakthroughs

Nuclear power - conventional, unconventional, fusion, cold fusion

8. Tele-operation and Robotics

I had previously discussed tele-operation and robotics

Humanoid helper robots on coming for earth applications and will be very useful for lunar and space operations.

Willow garage's PR2 and the stealth-mode Heartland Robotics are leaders in robotic arms.

Heartland robotics is making a mass producible and more advanced version of Obrero

9. NASA assessed technology for lunar water and solar electric space propulsion

A competitive prize process could find groups willing to achieve similar goals at a lower price.

Mark Henderson presented the plans of the NASA Technology applications assessment team (17 pages, 5 megabytes)

1. Satellite Servicing Mission(s) (Ted Talay)
2. ISRU Lunar Mission (Paul Spudis/Bill Rothschild)
3. Space Based Solar Power Demo (Bill Rothschild)
4. Solar Electric Propulsion Vehicle (Larry Schmidt/Sonny White)
5. Propellant Depot (Wally Twichell)
6. Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (Mark Holderman)

Solar Electric Propulsion - $500 million project

Perform high power SEP demonstration
30kW solar power
Battery augmentation to facilitate 200kW short duration
Total system delta-v: ~15km/sec
System will demonstrate two high power EP engine technologies: VASIMR & Hall_or_ION
Demo will also make use of mini free flying inspection spacecraft
Utilize emerging advanced solar technologies such as DARPA’s FAST or SOLAROSA.

* Vehicle can launch to LEO on Falcon 9
* Vehicle can achieve Mars orbit
* Delta-v split between two EP technologies

ISRU Lunar Water Processing Demo Mission for 2016

Find, extract, process, and store water on the Moon ($900 million mission targeting 2016)
Single launch on an Atlas V-551
6,420 kg Lunar Lander (GLOW)
Landing near a crater at the Moon’s North Pole
Prospecting rover in crater where water ice exists
Dig lunar feed stock and haul to processing plant
Demonstrate water extraction and storage

Key Demo Technologies for the water use on the moon mission
Precision navigation and landing near the crater rim at the Moon’s North Pole
Pair of Comm/Nav Sats in lunar orbit
High power PV array
Deployable Rover; rechargeable batteries
Prospecting sensor suite to find water
Diggers suitable for lunar regolith
ISRU processing plant
Water storage on the Moon

Space Based Solar Power Beaming Demo - $1.3 billion project

Proof of concept for wireless power transmission from space
Significant power levels > 25 kW to users
Safe and controllable power beaming from space to ground (Microwave)
Growth paths for exploration, military and commercial applications

Proof of concept for Ground to Space Laser power beaming
Closely coupled with solar power concept
Growth paths for space to space power beaming applications

Key Demo Technologies for solar power beaming demo
Retrodirective phase lock beam control
High power solid state laser
Inflatable solar power concentrator
Solar dynamic power generator
High energy flywheels
High efficiency microwave converters
Large deployable rectenna farm

Fuel Depot at GEO - $150 million for phase 1 by 2016

Provide storage for satellite pressurants and propellants in orbit in close proximity to multiple users.
Provide docking and replenishment service to robotic satellite servicing vehicle.
Enable extension of service life to on orbit satellites.
Enable multiple servicing missions by robotic servicing vehicle.
Reduce cost of satellite servicing missions.

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