Author Topic: Exploration Alternatives: From Propellant Depots to Commercial Lunar Base  (Read 22328 times)

Offline Chris Bergin

Ok, so L2 members will have seen what this is all about, although there isn't enough for a standalone article at this time. So, given it mentioned prop depots and the lunar elements, I wrote article covering some of the related efforts both with and outside of NASA to lead into this.

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/11/exploration-alternatives-propellant-depots-commercial-lunar-base/

We have been promised more details.

New standalone thread for the commercial lunar part of the article:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=30367.0

Offline MarkWhittington

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The idea of a commercial return to the moon is certainly exciting and I am anxious to hear more details. I wonder how this group intends to make money on the venture?

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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I'm genuinely surprised that NASA hasn't been publicising these ideas more openly; they genuinely could open the Moon and near-lunar space up to quite intense human activity, even if only to support a surface or EML scientific facility.  Is this another "let's slip this under the radar" like the EML-2 gateway station or is it more the work of a peripheral team who don't really have the support (or budget) to be shouting stuff from the rooftops?
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Offline alexterrell

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I'm genuinely surprised that NASA hasn't been publicising these ideas more openly; they genuinely could open the Moon and near-lunar space up to quite intense human activity, even if only to support a surface or EML scientific facility.  Is this another "let's slip this under the radar" like the EML-2 gateway station or is it more the work of a peripheral team who don't really have the support (or budget) to be shouting stuff from the rooftops?
Perhaps they fear that if this idea gains credence, some money could be saved by scrapping SLS?

Offline Warren Platts

Supposedly, this has nothing to do with NASA. Which is perhaps a good thing for us space cadets, but potentially a PR disaster for NASA: it's not going to look good if anybody beats them back to the surface of the Moon. But if it works out, it could potentially radically change the way NASA does exploration. YMMV.

I wonder who is really behind all this. Chris says the company has already been formed.

As for a potential business case: I can only think  of three:

1. Publicity
2. Tourism
3. Mining

1. No doubt the first landing or two will generate a lot of hype; hard to see how revenues will pay back the investment, though.

2. Going to the Moon would be a lot cooler than visiting ISS. If they can get the price down to significantly below the current Space Adventures price for a Soyuz ride ($50M/ea. IIRC), they could potentially make a little money, but it won't create the first trillionaire.

3. There are only two things that might be worth it: propellant and precious metals. The two-man lander won't be able to do any mining, but it would allow some serious sample return. They'll be able to do "human precursor" missions for a small fraction of the cost of current NASA rovers.

4. I guess I should add that they may be doing this as pure philanthropy. Well, that, and bragging rights. Just because it's there and just because they can.
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline robertross

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Super article Chris. I can't wait to see more details.

(of course having L2 will give me the heads up again...hehehe) 
Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our rights & freedoms, and for those injured, visible or otherwise, in that fight.

Offline Mogster

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This is an exciting announcement, as WP says the commercial aspect makes it even more important news for HSF followers.

It'll be interesting to see where this leaves NASA.

Offline Stellvia

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Hm, interesting. Wonder if the amazing disappearing Kevin Holleran is involved.

I'd rank this somewhere between the Planetary Resources business plan rating of "brave" and the Mars One rating of "completely nuts". Still, good luck to them, and all...

Kazakhstan is a signatory to the Moon Treaty, which might complicate commercial lunar launches from Baikonur.
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Offline Warren Platts

I was wondering that Diamandis has something to do with this. It's just the sort of rumor that looks like its got his fingerprints all over it. Before he organized Planetary Resources, he was all gung ho for the Moon:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-diamandis/gold-rush-on-the-moon_b_301273.html

If you'll look at his "2nd law", it says that when given a choice, take both. So maybe he's thinking the Moon is ripe for mining after all. IMHO, it's going to be a lot easier than asteroids, at least initially.

Heck I wouldn't be surprised if they set it up as a subsidiary of PRI...

Here's a recent interview:

« Last Edit: 11/15/2012 12:35 PM by Warren Platts »
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline Rocket Science

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« Last Edit: 11/15/2012 12:36 PM by Rocket Science »
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Offline Chris Bergin

Super article Chris. I can't wait to see more details.

(of course having L2 will give me the heads up again...hehehe) 

Thanks Robert! :)

 And yeah, we'll be following this up. Everything into L2, then when we have enough, additional news articles. Hoping to hear of the announcement date soon.

Offline Heinrich

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Quote:
The details point to the specific use of US vehicles, with a basic architecture to utilize multiple launches to assemble spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The details make direct reference to the potential use of propellant depots and fuel transfer technology.

---

That one word made me think. ...make DIRECT  ;) reference... Didn't these guys form a company C-Star?

And regarding the business model: If they can prove the principle of propellent depots / fuel transfer they can become licensor and sell / design these items for NASA or commercial companies.

Thanks for the article and I'm definitely waiting for more news!

Offline Go4TLI

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Perhaps they fear that if this idea gains credence, some money could be saved by scrapping SLS?

But according to the internet, NASA did not want SLS and it was forced upon them by a pork-hungry congress. 

Just confused at which way the winds are blowing today to justify an argument. 

Offline Chris Bergin

Perhaps they fear that if this idea gains credence, some money could be saved by scrapping SLS?

But according to the internet, NASA did not want SLS and it was forced upon them by a pork-hungry congress. 

Just confused at which way the winds are blowing today to justify an argument. 

Heh, according to the internet. I'm going to have to use that! :D

Couple of things for the thread.
1) This isn't about SLS cancellation, I simply included SLS in the article to reference the NASA plans.
2) Let's get off that "money saving" thing when something is proposed to be cancelled. I'd guess it would waste billions and cost billions to cancel SLS (money spent, contract obligations etc.).

Anyhoo, we've been over that endlessly, so maybe we can be constructive on this thread, as there's lots to discuss.

Online KelvinZero

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Sounds incredible, but really just a teaser at the moment..

Here's hoping for some real detail by say, December 25? :)

Offline Lobo

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Perhaps they fear that if this idea gains credence, some money could be saved by scrapping SLS?

But according to the internet, NASA did not want SLS and it was forced upon them by a pork-hungry congress. 

Just confused at which way the winds are blowing today to justify an argument. 

Heh, according to the internet. I'm going to have to use that! :D

Couple of things for the thread.
1) This isn't about SLS cancellation, I simply included SLS in the article to reference the NASA plans.
2) Let's get off that "money saving" thing when something is proposed to be cancelled. I'd guess it would waste billions and cost billions to cancel SLS (money spent, contract obligations etc.).

Anyhoo, we've been over that endlessly, so maybe we can be constructive on this thread, as there's lots to discuss.

Agreed.  I think SLS would be quite far along, if not already flying, by the time such a commercial project would be far enough along to determine if it’s going all the way to fruition or not.
That being said, this could showcase hardware which would be privately developed and paid for, that could be purchased for NASA to go to the Moon as well.  SLS could be used for that.  It could just do a mission with a single launch, rather than LEO assembly.  Whatever EDS gets developed for this could maybe be adapted to be used on SLS too for lunar missions.  Like a CPS that NASA didn’t have to pay to develop. 

It would probably be politically difficult to cancel SLS after it has already flown, so I’d imagine NASA would more likely buy the showcased hardware, and launch it themselves on SLS.

Offline butters

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It seems like we have a pretty good idea of which aerospace companies would be involved in this project, but we don't have a clue where this kind of money would come from. We're talking about tens of billions of dollars up front plus continuing investments in semi-permanent infrastructure.

What is Wall Street trying to build on the moon? A giant billboard?

Offline Warren Platts

Picked up by examiner.com, including a little editorializing analysis and commentary:

Quote from: Mark Whittington
Details on who the “high profile individuals from the aerospace industry” are and how much “big money” is available are thus far lacking. But if a commercial effort to return to the moon is real, it could change the face of space exploration in ways that are beyond calculation. If the effort were to succeed, it would constitute a black eye for both NASA and the Chinese. A 2020 landing date, just past the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, would beat any contemplated government sponsored moon mission. President Obama, who publically ridiculed the idea of a return to the moon as having been there and done that, might have some explaining to do.

http://www.examiner.com/article/report-commercial-astronauts-may-beat-nasa-and-china-back-to-the-moon-by-2020

« Last Edit: 11/15/2012 09:29 PM by Warren Platts »
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline butters

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Could this be a bunch of right-wing billionaires trying to make a political statement?

Offline MarkWhittington

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Until the announcement is made and the company and its backers are revealed, we can spin theories all we want but it would be idle speculation. I don't believe, having said that, that this is an effort by a group that wants to make a political statement or are doing this pro bono. However the pay off is likely to be a long way away. I suspect that the initial moon landing is a proof of concept, showing that it can be done commercially. Then the money making can begin (mining? tourism? selling services to governments.) Oh, and to the person who accused me of editorializing, in the journalism business we call it analysis or commentary. The political implications of this, should it succeed, are going to be profound and likely not entirely predictable.

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