Author Topic: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot  (Read 7220 times)

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« on: 02/10/2016 09:52 PM »

While we are awaiting SpaceX’ return to flight and, hopefully, a major announcement concerning their Mars architecture, here are some more sketches of the proposed MCT Propellant Depot.

One of the several reasons for choosing the six-berth design for the MCT Propellant Depot was that it offers an efficient way of surrounding a compact group of spacecraft with a protective outer shell. Such a design requires a minimal amount of material to perform its functions. Panels to reflect solar heat, solar panels to generate power, and radiators to dissipate solar heat, or a combination of these three may cover the outer surfaces of the Depot.

The hyperlinks below are the presentations and discussions that preceded this thread. Then, in the next 9 posts I will present some options for the design of the outer shell protecting the sides of the vehicles and a design for the end-cap.

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=38146.0
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=38308.0
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=38686.0

Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #1 on: 02/10/2016 09:53 PM »
Option 1

You may recall that the stepwise development of the Depot framework resulted in an end view of the Depot reminiscent of a crystal or snowflake.  In the figure below we observe six safety zones, which have a diameter of 17 m each. This is based on a15 m presumed diameter of the MCT and a 1 m safety zone around it. The vehicle never comes in direct contact with any part of the depot framework; each vehicle is locked into its berth by latches on arm extensions.

Option 1 for the outer shell is the bare framework with no shell around the outside of the Depot. This could happen if further analysis showed that no protection is required for MCT other than the insulation and reflective materials that already surround the propellant tanks as components of each vehicle.

Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #2 on: 02/10/2016 09:55 PM »
Option 2

Option 2 is an open-ended cylinder that surrounds all six berths and the MCTs within them. The cylinder may be surfaced with powdered aluminum, a highly reflective material commonly applied on spacecraft for this purpose. The shell is divided into six sets of double doors that lie directly over each berth. These doors will open to allow entry into or exit from a berth.
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #3 on: 02/10/2016 09:56 PM »
Option 3

If further analysis shows that solar panels or heat radiators should be mounted on the sides of the depot doors, then flat surfaces may be needed. In option 2 a flat-sided (faceted) outer shell will replace the cylindrical outer surface, as shown below. The doors will be flat so that flat solar panels or flat radiators can be attached easily.

Edit: Substituted the figure for the correct one.
« Last Edit: 02/11/2016 08:55 AM by Ionmars »
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #4 on: 02/10/2016 09:58 PM »
Additional struts

To implement option 2 or 3 it will be necessary to add struts to support the door hinges located between berths, as indicated below. These struts will be attached onto the forward and aft frames.
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #5 on: 02/10/2016 10:00 PM »
Option 4

Option 4 will employ multifaceted door panels such as shown below. This approach obviates the requirement for additional struts because the hinges are attached to struts that already exist. Multifaceted door panels also provide additional surface area for mounting solar panels or radiators. IMO it also offers a “coolness” factor.  :)
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #6 on: 02/10/2016 10:01 PM »
End cap shield

Regardless of which option is chosen for the outer shell to protect the sides of the Depot, an end cap will be required on the forward end. One type of end cap is the multiple use shield shown below. It will consist of flat heat reflective materials alternating with solar panels on its outer surface.
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #7 on: 02/10/2016 10:03 PM »
Sol-facing shield

The multipurpose end cap shield will be effective only when directly facing the sun. This means the forward face must always face Sol at all times during its orbital transit and never toward planet Earth. The reflective surfaces and the solar panels will be effective except when the Depot transits through Earth’s shadow. 

Note that the aft end of the depot will always be in the shadow of the forward end cap. If further analysis of heat accumulation shows that additional radiators are required, the aft end frame might be a good place to attach them, trailing away from the forward shield and always in its shadow.

A further analysis of heat generation and dissipation as well as a study of power requirements will determine the amount of depot surface area that should be composed of reflective material, solar panels, and radiators, and where they should be placed.
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #8 on: 02/10/2016 10:04 PM »
Unfolding end cap shield

This end cap will be subdivided into radial segments (not shown on the previous sketch)) that are unfolded from a compact storage space and then attached onto the forward frame of the depot. This circular shield does not unfold like a standard circular solar panel, Due to its large size (diameter nominally set to 61 m) it is larger than the diameter of the rest of the depot which is 54 meters. Instead, it unfolds like a Japanese fan with additional struts to support the radiating panels.

This shield is still too large to be folded up and stowed in one piece. All panels will be further subdivided into 10-meter wide circular bands. Beginning at the center the subdivisions will occur at 11, 21, 31, and 51 meters radii. Thus each folded segment will be no longer than 11 meters in length and will fit within the ceiling height of a MCT cargo vehicle. The radial segments may be further subdivided into radial sub-segments, e.g. one-quarter of the shield for each sub-segment, depending on the resulting thickness of the package and stowage requirements of the MCT cargo hold.
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32227
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 10882
  • Likes Given: 324
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #9 on: 02/10/2016 10:05 PM »
Why is a shell needed and why would there be more than one MCT's at the depot at a time?

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #10 on: 02/10/2016 10:05 PM »
Summary

In this thread four different types of outer coverings and one type of multipurpose end cap were presented as options for the MCT Propellant Depot. Further analyses will determine the specific surface areas allocated for reflective shield material, solar panels and heat radiators.
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32227
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 10882
  • Likes Given: 324
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #11 on: 02/10/2016 10:11 PM »
Summary

In this thread four different types of outer coverings and one type of multipurpose end cap were presented as options for the MCT Propellant Depot. Further analyses will determine the specific surface areas allocated for reflective shield material, solar panels and heat radiators.


Again, why do the MCT's need go be enclosed much less covered?
« Last Edit: 02/10/2016 10:12 PM by Jim »

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #12 on: 02/10/2016 10:24 PM »
Why is a shell needed and why would there be more than one MCT's at the depot at a time?
Good query. My original thoughts were for a depot that would be entirely covered to protect both from solar radiation and reflected radiation from Earth, as in other depot proposals. Now that I have examined the front end cap reflector I realize that complete coverage probably will not be necessary. So now I would choose option 1 (no outer shell) but with a front end cap/shield.

As to why more than one vehicle at a time might dock at the depot, the premise for a large depot is that there will eventually be a large volume of traffic to Mars, as indicated by SpaceX. I have said at the outset that in-space transfers can be accomplished with no depot or a small depot, such as the one proposed by ULA/NASA as long as there are only a few trips to Mars each synod.

There are also some advantages to sharing facilities at the depot.
« Last Edit: 02/10/2016 10:30 PM by Ionmars »
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline docmordrid

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4757
  • Michigan
  • Liked: 1849
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #13 on: 02/10/2016 10:42 PM »
Or KISS by using modded BFS's as reusable tankers.
DM

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32227
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 10882
  • Likes Given: 324
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #14 on: 02/10/2016 11:17 PM »

As to why more than one vehicle at a time might dock at the depot, the premise for a large depot is that there will eventually be a large volume of traffic to Mars, as indicated by SpaceX.

They haven't said anything close to that volume. You realize that would be around 600 people per day and associated depot support launches.

Offline Burninate

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1133
  • Liked: 350
  • Likes Given: 72
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #15 on: 02/11/2016 12:13 AM »
*Note that all of this is predicated on practical microgravity pumping or cryostorage of methalox requiring some rotation.  Furthermore, it's predicated on a dedicated depot having some comparative advantage (eg, in insulation, active cryocooling, a reusable thermal shade, or a half dozen other things) over using an MCT spacecraft itself... but the MCT spacecraft must still be a good enough storage vessel to keep things topped up on the Martian surface, which is a bit of a pickle.

Using one berth complicates things substantially.  You have to worry about the behavior of sloshing liquids in an asymmetrically rotating body with a shifting center of mass and rotation rate.  I think two berths makes for a lot simpler project than one berth.

If you've made the decision to use a radially symmetric / cylindrical depot with an outer shell, though, once you have two berths, you basically have the option of using four berths or six berths for 'free' - the dimensions don't increase.

A berth doesn't necessarily need to serve visiting vehicles.  It can also serve as the actual storage tank of the depot.

Even if all six berths are for visiting tugs and there's a separate tank, if pumping requires rotation, a single spin-up / spin-down (transferring six tugs worth of propellant) would be easier than three or six spin-up / spin-down maneuvers for the same amount of propellant.  It's a matter of how many rotations the average kilogram of propellant is subjected to.

Actual pumping operations are not likely to take very long relative to the time spent waiting for the next tug, and would not be compatible with spinning down to dock new vehicles while still pumping.

One level of complexity up, I will note that if you tie two of these 4-6 berth vehicles together (with a very heavy rigid truss system), you can spin them up and down without resorting to propulsive thrust.

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #16 on: 02/11/2016 08:07 AM »
Propellant transfers can be accomplished with little or no depot as long as there are only a few missions during each synod. But the question arises: when will the volume of traffic to Mars require a larger depot?

To address this question I have been developing a worksheet - see the file attachment below.

The number of launches to LEO and the number of Mars trips will depend on the volume of MCTs of the various types that are produced, the current inventory of each type on Earth, and the rate of return of vehicles from Mars. In table 1 below is a conservative projection over 4 synods, beginning with the first introduction of a prototype during “Synod 0.” To do this projection I assumed a constant production rate of 2 MCTs per year or 4 per 26-month synod with no increase in the production rate. I also did not account for any contribution from preliminary Dragon missions that could set up small ISRU propellant facilities on Mars.

 If this is a "low-ball" estimate what would an optimistic estimate look like?
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Ionmars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 791
  • North Carolina, USA
  • Liked: 224
  • Likes Given: 502
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #17 on: 02/11/2016 08:22 AM »

As to why more than one vehicle at a time might dock at the depot, the premise for a large depot is that there will eventually be a large volume of traffic to Mars, as indicated by SpaceX.

They haven't said anything close to that volume. You realize that would be around 600 people per day and associated depot support launches.


My guess is that a depot will simplify operations for SpaceX or any other company or country using MCT-like vehicles. It just requires enough vehicle traffic to LEO whereby a structure in space will be convenient and will speed up their operation.

This structure is pretty simple compared to the ISS. No pressure vessels because it is remote controlled from Earth. Just a framework and an end cap heat shield. As indicated in the "assembly" thread, the framework can be put together with materials lifted to LEO inside one cargo MCT. Probably an efficient project.
« Last Edit: 02/11/2016 08:25 AM by Ionmars »
Mars Pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32227
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 10882
  • Likes Given: 324
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #18 on: 02/11/2016 08:59 AM »

My guess is that a depot will simplify operations for SpaceX or any other company or country using MCT-like vehicles. It just requires enough vehicle traffic to LEO whereby a structure in space will be convenient and will speed up their operation.

This structure is pretty simple compared to the ISS. No pressure vessels because it is remote controlled from Earth. Just a framework and an end cap heat shield. As indicated in the "assembly" thread, the framework can be put together with materials lifted to LEO inside one cargo MCT. Probably an efficient project.

That is a grossly optimistic (or even bad assumption) that there will be other companies or countries using MCT type vehicles.

Also, it would be constructed using an MCT, that is putting the cart before the horse. If there is going to be traffic going to Mars, it will grow incrementally and so will depots. 

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32227
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 10882
  • Likes Given: 324
Re: An Outer Shell for the MCT Propellant Depot
« Reply #19 on: 02/11/2016 09:06 AM »
Why are they docked axially and not radially?