Author Topic: NASA interest in an interplanetary highway supported by Propellant Depots  (Read 57297 times)

Offline Chris Bergin

Two part article. First part on NASA's internal notes on Prop Depot Interest via L2 and a presentation we have on there about a leading concept (the "Simple Depot")..

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2011/08/nasa-interest-interplanetary-highway-supported-propellant-depots/


Offline KEdward5

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Gas stations in space. I like that. Nice and easy to read in the first half and then technical, but still understandable in the second half.

And works with SLS, not against, well sign me up! ;D

Offline HappyMartian

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Gas stations in space. I like that. Nice and easy to read in the first half and then technical, but still understandable in the second half.

And works with SLS, not against, well sign me up! ;D

I'll second that! I really do love it.   :)
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Offline uko

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Very interesting article Chris.. great read! Thanks! :)
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Offline douglas100

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Yes. This is the way to go. Propellant transfer is something that any space faring civilization must be able to do.
Douglas Clark

Offline kkattula

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Gas stations in space. I like that. Nice and easy to read in the first half and then technical, but still understandable in the second half.

And works with SLS, not against, well sign me up! ;D

Initial SLS (without the upper stage) would be a handy size for replenishment of the larger depots.

That could enable a high launch rate, with very low cost payloads.

A BEO mission might consist of several 'short SLS' depot fills, followed by one 'long SLS' (with US/EDS) and a very heavy, dry, mission package.

Offline blasphemer

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Great, this is something that should have been done long ago.

SLS and propellant depots will surely be a powerful combination, assuming there will be enough money left for payloads.

Offline WulfTheSaxon

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Bah, we all agree on something? How long can this last?  :P

Offline Garrett

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Bah, we all agree on something? How long can this last?  :P

As long as now ;)

Propellant depots do indeed seem very attractive, but I get the feeling that their attractiveness is very dependent on their intuitiveness, i.e. it just seems to makes sense to have gas stations in space.
But intuition without the mathematics can be very deceptive, so that's where I would be reluctant to jump for joy when I hear of this type of plan - I simply don't have the know-how and rocket engineering background to evaluate this type of proposal.

 - are the costs incurred in the running and using of a propellant depot architecture competitive enough when compared to direct trajectory architectures?
 - is the argument in my above question of direct vs depot a possible false dichotomy? i.e., what other possible architectures exist?
 - do we research and construct depots on a "build it and they will come" mentality, as currently seems to be the case? Jeff Greason gives a convincing argument that a long term strategy is the only viable way to go.

I like the idea of depots, but history and hindsight tells me that there's no such thing as a game changer. Any future architecture, I imagine, will likely be a mix of many architectures, and propellant depots will have their part to play.
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Offline Danny Dot

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Now we need to see a ground up cost analysis to see how much money will be saved (or not saved).  How much will a pound of fuel at the depot cost?  How many development dollars will be spent?  The list goes on.
Danny Deger

Offline EE Scott

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Two part article. First part on NASA's internal notes on Prop Depot Interest via L2 and a presentation we have on there about a leading concept (the "Simple Depot")..

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2011/08/nasa-interest-interplanetary-highway-supported-propellant-depots/



Really good article.  This has to be one of my favorites in a long time.  Great promise, and not big $$ to demonstrate and begin to develop.  It there are gotchas along the way, well, we need to begin development to find them.
Scott

Offline Bill White

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LEO depots - by themselves - do not make an "interplanetary highway"

Lagrange point depots and depots in orbit around other celestial bodies (Mars, for example) are necessary if we are to claim to have an "interplanetary highway"

IMHO . . .
EML architectures should be seen as ratchet opportunities

Offline douglas100

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Bah, we all agree on something? How long can this last?  :P

It's good to see interesting points made without people SHOUTING past each other! :)
Douglas Clark

Offline robertross

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Now we need to see a ground up cost analysis to see how much money will be saved (or not saved).  How much will a pound of fuel at the depot cost?  How many development dollars will be spent?  The list goes on.

1) Storing cryos for long periods of time.
2) Transfering said cryos

You solve those two for a minimum 1-2 year lifespan and a mission to Mars, or any other long distance BEO destination, got that much simpler.

This is not just about a LEO gas station, and this is something I've hoped to see for a long time. It must start somewhere, and LEO makes the most sense at this stage (much like the capabilities of the ISS).

What I would like to see is a combination of a LEO depot demo and Orbital's servicing vehicle, so that they can both test out, and possibly be used to service the depot, and the depot re-fuel the spacecraft. Now THAT would be cool.
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Offline Chris Bergin

Thanks guys. Had to put my "concentration hat" on for this one, but was a lot of fun to write up. Always liked prop depots.

Offline David AF

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Excellent. Let's get this done with EELV and SLS!
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Offline Paul Howard

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Why didn't ESAS come up with something like this? Thanks Constellation! :(

Offline jongoff

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LEO depots - by themselves - do not make an "interplanetary highway"

Lagrange point depots and depots in orbit around other celestial bodies (Mars, for example) are necessary if we are to claim to have an "interplanetary highway"

Definitely.  Depots make a big difference for one-way outbound traffic, but they make an even bigger difference for 2-way commerce, especially when coupled with ISRU near the destination end, and some sort of aerobraking for the earth return end.  There is no technical way of reusing in-space transportation elements without depots, and by having depots at both ends (which the Simple Depot concept that Frank Zegler and I came up with is well suited for), you make it possible to break up transportation legs even further.  You'd be amazed what you could do in the near-term with depots in LEO and L1/L2, even if you were stuck with just existing rocket vehicles.

~Jon

Offline arkaska

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Only had time for a glance at the article since I'm at work and will take a closer look once I get home. But so far so good, thanks Chris!

Offline jongoff

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Paul H,

To be honest, the concepts behind depots and how to seriously do them have been relatively recent (many driven by frustration with CxP).  Frank and I came up with the simple depot idea (independently) back around early 2009 (I think--may have been 2008, last few years have been a bit of a blur for me).  A lot of the other details on how best to use them have also been only really delved into in the past 2-3 years.  So, to be fair, while the idea of depots is pretty darned old, the really solid details that make depots look really feasible and desirable (and not an ISS-scale monstrosity) have been only out for a few years.

~Jon
« Last Edit: 08/10/2011 02:05 PM by Chris Bergin »

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