Author Topic: Cislunar station gets thumbs up, new name in Presidentís budget request  (Read 12192 times)

Offline Coastal Ron

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Yeah, the time lag operating robots on the moon from Earth isn't bad, but the real reason to do it from LOP-G is to gain experience for future BEO missions. Like ISS, LOP-G is for testing.

But what would actually be tested?  The one clear testing application I can see for LOP-G is marinating astronauts in the interplanetary radiation field to gain confidence that they won't suffer too much harm on the way to Mars.  But with 45-day stays, even that isn't possible.

Obviously a spacecraft capable of carrying a crew to Mars will need to be able to operate without resupply for much longer than ISS does.  But that's a capability that could be developed and tested in LEO more cheaply than in cis-lunar space.

It's to test the hardware, not the crew. The BEO environment is different from LEO. Occasionally sending crew to LOP-G makes for good PR.

PR is not enough ROI for taxpayer money. If American's don't see how LOP-G is important to a national goal then they won't support it - regardless how many video's are beamed down of astronauts floating at work stations controlling hardware on the Moon.

Remember Apollo didn't get public backing until just before we reached the Moon, and Apollo was doing something that was very understandable.

So the ROI for anything the U.S. does in space needs to be tied to some sort of "National Imperative". We don't have an international competition today like the Cold War to support sending humans into space, but since the Cold War "science" has been the reason for sending humans and robots out into space.

Does the LOP-G provide enough science output to justify it's cost?

That is a difficult question, since "science" is not easily quantifiable. But the optics of the LOP-G, at least so far, seem thin on the ROI part. Not unlike how ARM was perceived...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Proponent

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It's to test the hardware, not the crew. The BEO environment is different from LEO.

How is it different?  There's the interplanetary radiation field, but that's more relevant to crew than to hardware, and we already have lots of experience operating hardware for long periods in interplanetary space.

The cis-lunar thermal environment is somewhat different from that in LEO, but it's still not the same as at Mars.  Might as well test in a high polar orbit.  And I don't think there are any big thermal unknowns that require extensive testing anyway.

What am I missing?  And if LOP-G is a good stepping stone to Mars, why hasn't shown up frequently in the many Mars architectures proposed since the 1950's?

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Occasionally sending crew to LOP-G makes for good PR.

And drastically increases the cost.
« Last Edit: 04/15/2018 03:53 PM by Proponent »

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Anything in lunar orbit will be used for journeys to the Moon. It would be performing the same task as railway stations, airports and the pier at sea ports - where you change from a short range means of transport, such as a taxi, to a long range transport.

To ensure reliability the multi-year life support system used by the Deep Space Transport needs flight testing constantly for several years. Preferably somewhere we can fix it without killing the astronauts. When the LOP-G's life support fails the astronauts can shelter in the visiting vehicle.

Offline yg1968

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What is really frustrating is that there are many missions that could be done from the Gateway (not Lop-G) ...

I've been a moon-first guy for decades so you'll forgive me if I get a little excited over lunar mission announcements, only to be followed by disappointment when examining the details. Gateway, Lop-G et al are all an astronomical waste of funding, effort and time. What DOES make sense is a permanent staging station at EML-2 that is envisioned to be the location for going to and returning from all lunar and solar system destinations. That station needs to be the central hub of all BEO exploration and exploitation policy. Once launching from and returning to that station becomes the center point of human space exploration policy then all missions to the lunar surface, planets,asteroid belt or outer moons will be designed to use it, saving tens of trillions of dollars in mission costs over time. All human exploration spacecraft would designed for exclusive use in space and be reusable for multiple missions. Thus all exploration missions would be two-tiered; flights from earth to the station in an atmosphere capable spacecraft, where crew transfer to the in-space-only exploration spacecraft and flights from the station to and from all solar system destinations. It's like driving your car to the airport and boarding a passenger plane to New Deli. It makes so much sense. All the current so-called stations are like designing a passenger aircraft when there are no airports available to fly from or go to. A permanent installation at EML-2 puts human explorers literally 1/2 way to ANYWHERE in the solar system. It's the "airport" that is vitally needed before any "passenger aircraft" makes any sense at all. I know that's a weird analogy but it is so appropriate. We need an "airport hub" at EML-2 for all our manned and some unmanned missions. It would be so much easier on everybody if we did that instead of all these one-off style so-called stations.

I am confused, I was under the impression that the PPE (power and propulsion element) allowed the LOP-G to be moved around. Couldn't you just move the LOP-G to EML-2?
« Last Edit: 04/15/2018 05:47 PM by yg1968 »

Offline clongton

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I am confused, I was under the impression that the PPE allowed the LOP-G to be moved around. Couldn't you just move the LOP-G to EML-2?

Yes, but LOP-G is much too small and constricted to be a transportation hub, which is what I was speaking of. Think in terms of a railway station with multiple tracks converging there, or perhaps an airport tower complex that includes facilities for visiting aircraft and depot and repair facilities.
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Offline yg1968

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OK, thanks. During the NAC meeting, they said that the size of the LOP-G is limited by the the capability of the PPE. But they said that they could have more than one (i.e., perhaps two). They also said that the 45 days was at first but that it may evolve into longer periods of time.
« Last Edit: 04/15/2018 06:05 PM by yg1968 »

Offline Proponent

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Anything in lunar orbit will be used for journeys to the Moon. It would be performing the same task as railway stations, airports and the pier at sea ports - where you change from a short range means of transport, such as a taxi, to a long range transport.

It's far from obvious that a permanent facility is needed at the staging point.  NASA's Evolvable Mars Campaign, for example, stages in lunar DRO but places no base there.

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To ensure reliability the multi-year life support system used by the Deep Space Transport needs flight testing constantly for several years. Preferably somewhere we can fix it without killing the astronauts. When the LOP-G's life support fails the astronauts can shelter in the visiting vehicle.

It's cheaper to test it in LEO.  Also, LOP-G won't be able to demonstrate continuous multi-year crew support if it's occupied just 45 days per year.
« Last Edit: 04/15/2018 08:33 PM by Proponent »

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Anything in lunar orbit will be used for journeys to the Moon. It would be performing the same task as railway stations, airports and the pier at sea ports - where you change from a short range means of transport, such as a taxi, to a long range transport.

It's far from obvious that a permanent facility is needed at the staging point.  NASA's Evolvable Mars Campaign, for example, stages in lunar DRO but places no base there.


For Mars, which we plan to visit every 2 years, a permanent facility may not be needed. For the Moon a permanent facility will be useful because I suspect that the people will serve 6 month tours - like the ISS. There will also be resupply trips to the Moon.

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To ensure reliability the multi-year life support system used by the Deep Space Transport needs flight testing constantly for several years. Preferably somewhere we can fix it without killing the astronauts. When the LOP-G's life support fails the astronauts can shelter in the visiting vehicle.

It's cheaper to test it in LEO.  Also, LOP-G won't be able to demonstrate continuous multi-year crew support if it's occupied just 45 days per year.

True if there is only one spacestation. However if there has to be a new LEO spacestation as well as a lunar orbit spacestation then cost estimating becomes more complex.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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As this thread amply illustrates, it is unclear the role of any station in any lunar orbit supporting any mission.

Like most exploration architectures, you work them backwards from the specific objectives you want to begin with.

And some of these have no need for stations in the first place. Like flag and footprints.

(What I don't like at all about any "moon first", is that there is no clear and specific focus on objectives/where/how/with what, such that you can evaluate an architecture for doing so.)

Made the same challenge to "Mars first" ones at Zubrin's Mars Society and SX. (They've given me better answers, but Mars is much further away.)

Perhaps that's why lunar exploration programs are so easy to screw up, like the "stovepiping" Wingo suggests.

Offline Robotbeat

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They should just put a massive propulsion system on it and use it as a transfer vehicle. Explore the Martian system, Ceres, whatever. Better than just being stuck in cislunar.
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Offline clongton

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(What I don't like at all about any "moon first", is that there is no clear and specific focus on objectives/where/how/with what, such that you can evaluate an architecture for doing so.)

Ghost - Moon-First Purpose: Create and operate lunar-based industries that would provide the majority, if not all, the goods and services needed by manned and unmanned space missions at a cost far less than earth ground-based suppliers. Eventually the spacecraft dispatched on these missions would also be built on the lunar surface and then launched to the EML-2 station hub for final assembly and outfitting and refitting for additional missions after returning. These would ultimately cost far less than building them on earth and launching up this deep gravity well.

There is an entire world there only ~400,000 km away that is known to be resource rich. The challenge is to develop the knowhow to exploit these resources on an alien world; something we are going to have to do extremely well anyway if the human presence in the solar system is ever to be anything greater than boots and flags. The best way to drive down the cost of doing that is to invest the capital, time and effort to move the industry necessary to accomplish that offworld, someplace with a shallow gravity well that has easy access to the lagrange points that are all 1/2 way to anyplace in the solar system.

Yes, I know this isn't "a mission". Yes I know I'm taking the long view. Yes, I know I'm envisioning several "cities" on the moon. Yes, I know this would be astronomically expensive. But if we try to do anything substantial in the solar system without doing this FIRST and instead be building, launching and servicing from the earth's surface it is going to cost one hell of a lot more than the cost of moving the industry offworld.

Spend the money. Invest the effort and the time. Or forget about human expansion into the solar system. It will simply cost too much and take too long. The central point of human expansion into the solar system cannot be on the ground down here. It has to be offworld, on and around the moon, or just forget about it. Otherwise it'll take centuries just to make modest gains.

Edit: Space is hard and extremely expensive. Nothing we do will ever make it less hard but we can make it less expensive. We do that by moving the industries needed to support that into as shallow a gravity well as is reasonable to support human habitation AND industry - the moon.

Hobby exploration - done infrequently from the surface of the earth at enormous cost.
Serious exploration - done often from the moon at much less cost (once up and running).

The first place in the solar system to colonize is the moon, not Mars. The purpose of that colonization is to build and operate a thriving industry there designed to support routine space exploration and human expansion into the solar system.

Build our first colony close to home and with a long-view purpose.
We need to become a 2-planet economy that will enable everything else; earth/moon.
Moon-first and that's why.
That's my vision. YMMV
« Last Edit: 04/16/2018 04:32 PM by clongton »
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Offline Eric Hedman

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I have just been listening to Mike Pence speak at the Space Symposium:



One new thing he said about LOP-G is that there would eventually be a fuel depot.  I haven't heard anyone within the government say that before.  Does anyone know if that is now part of the planning?

Now that this is no longer live, Mike Pence's speech starts at the 1 hour and 8 minutes in.
« Last Edit: 04/16/2018 07:46 PM by Eric Hedman »

Online TrevorMonty

As this thread amply illustrates, it is unclear the role of any station in any lunar orbit supporting any mission.

Like most exploration architectures, you work them backwards from the specific objectives you want to begin with.

And some of these have no need for stations in the first place. Like flag and footprints.

(What I don't like at all about any "moon first", is that there is no clear and specific focus on objectives/where/how/with what, such that you can evaluate an architecture for doing so.)

Starting with lunar surface objective and working backwards will give the most efficient architecture but also requires lot money up front. There will likely be no intermediate HSF destinations so just like Apollo and Constellation its moon or bust. In this day and age bust is most likely outcome.

The step by step approach working outward may not be most efficient way to lunar surface but there will be financially achieveable intermediate goals.
« Last Edit: 04/16/2018 07:02 PM by TrevorMonty »

Offline Endeavour_01

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With all the endless back and forth on the LOP-G let me add a quick thought.

One of the big plusses in favor of the LOP-G is it's affordability and achievability. It can be done within NASA's foreseeable budget and is achievable within a relatively short time frame. Don't discount that. How many times have grand pronouncements been made only to be canceled a few years later? ISS came within one vote of being canceled. LOP-G as currently described has the potential to actually leave the ground and become a foothold in cis-lunar space.

Sure it isn't everything a space supporter dreams of but it is more doable than CxP and has a much wider array of possible missions than ARM. As the VP just stated at the Space Symposium the station is planned to have a fuel depot. This enables the stationing of a reusable lunar lander. Like ISS the LOP-G can become a destination for commercial companies and expand cooperation between NASA and the private sector.

After all the endless discussions/arguments of "use this architecture", "No use this one" I'm ready for us to actually go somewhere and do something. I would much rather have an imperfect system and look up at the moon knowing there are humans there than have endless arguments on "the perfect approach" and be stuck on the ground.
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Offline Proponent

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They should just put a massive propulsion system on it and use it as a transfer vehicle. Explore the Martian system, Ceres, whatever. Better than just being stuck in cislunar.

Remember NAUTILUS-X?

Offline Eric Hedman

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Mike Pence in his speech said he wants the government to become the tenant and customer of commercial systems.  He also talked about international partnerships.  I don't think the international partnerships will happen until the US commits to something first.  If the LOP-G gets this process started, it won't be the most technically efficient way of getting things done, but if it lays the ground work for commercial investment and international partnerships to add the Power Propulsion Elements, landers, depots, habitats, etc.  then it just may be the right course of action.  It would fit in with what Trump talks about for public private partnerships for infrastructure.  I'm beginning to like this plan a bit more.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Thank you Chuck for a first crack at "inspired mission", and attempting to answer my challenge. (Will try to take your mission and apply it to a mission architecture that could be evaluated in some fashion.)

(What I don't like at all about any "moon first", is that there is no clear and specific focus on objectives/where/how/with what, such that you can evaluate an architecture for doing so.)

Ghost - Moon-First Purpose: Create and operate lunar-based industries that would provide the majority, if not all, the goods and services needed by manned and unmanned space missions at a cost far less than earth ground-based suppliers.
In terms of business analysts, you are suggesting bootstrapping a refined supply business ("suppliers") where the advantage is the "delta-v" of the supplies "locally" produced, being consumed by missions.

Reminds of the propellant depot business, but with much cheaper goods.

Both fundamentally are a shift in use patterns (instead of one time use carry along all props). Such require commitment for use ahead of time. (Example: before Falcon 9 flew, a manifest of commercial sats, as now with New Glenn).

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Eventually the spacecraft dispatched on these missions would also be built on the lunar surface and then launched to the EML-2 station hub for final assembly and outfitting and refitting for additional missions after returning.
Extending this to vehicles, standardization of vehicles to a small handful, with some small percentage of content locally made.

Likely additive manufacturing of certain accessible propulsion system components from common stock, likely sintered metals from a lunar source.

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These would ultimately cost far less than building them on earth and launching up this deep gravity well.
Also, extends use life on station without requiring delay from ground based sources.

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There is an entire world there only ~400,000 km away that is known to be resource rich. The challenge is to develop the knowhow to exploit these resources on an alien world; something we are going to have to do extremely well anyway if the human presence in the solar system is ever to be anything greater than boots and flags.
It took thousands of years to discover and use resources on earth effectively. The difference between "hands on" and "only gazing through a telescope" for that period is significant.

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The best way to drive down the cost of doing that is to invest the capital, time and effort to move the industry necessary to accomplish that offworld, someplace with a shallow gravity well that has easy access to the lagrange points that are all 1/2 way to anyplace in the solar system.
There are many different places for "gravity trades", including halo orbits around the moon.

Access to the moon can be as close as a handful of kilometers and a couple of kilometers per second (frozen orbit),  to a fifth of the distance between the earth and the moon. Orientation is just as important for where on the moon to access. Not to mention the effects of mascons if one needs certain very specific locations.

In general, close to the surface for frequent, large area coverage, and furthest out for centralization of orbital resources. Concentration of ground based resources happens when productivity requires it, and likewise for centralized orbital resources.

In addition if those resources are to be consumed as a part of further exploration,  centralizing at Lagrange points EML 1/2 allows for outbound exploration marshalling by low-loss delta-v transfer. For lunar exploration, best means is likely ballistic point to point delivery.

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Yes, I know this isn't "a mission".
It's better than anything else on this thread, so I'll roll with it. And arrive at a mission architecture. Which serves my point of "if you are moon first, then at least have an architecture that allows it".

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Yes I know I'm taking the long view. Yes, I know I'm envisioning several "cities" on the moon.
Believe it or not, stating any vision implies structure. Structure shapes architecture.

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Yes, I know this would be astronomically expensive. But if we try to do anything substantial in the solar system without doing this FIRST and instead be building, launching and servicing from the earth's surface it is going to cost one hell of a lot more than the cost of moving the industry offworld.
Scary thing about hanging around Musk ventures is while he "feels" money, he doesn't think "money". (Which is why he gets into so many cashflow binds, but that's another story.)

So you connect the parts to create a whole, that reaches for a spanning set, that approximates a vision. That's "good enough".

But then you need to make a durable architecture, and that's the failing I'm attempting to point out. To be frank, space is easily exploited in the manner of "going nowhere". Which is where we've mostly been, and mostly headed.

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Spend the money. Invest the effort and the time. Or forget about human expansion into the solar system. It will simply cost too much and take too long. The central point of human expansion into the solar system cannot be on the ground down here. It has to be offworld, on and around the moon, or just forget about it. Otherwise it'll take centuries just to make modest gains.
Fine ambitions.

Here's the deal. Connect the dots. Musk does it better than Bezos. If you want the start of your post for real, identify the "anchor customers" and find a way of exclusively serving them, where they need you more than you need them. Then have a means to scale.

The root problem is that currently the only customer is USG, they do very little, and have no need to scale. If they need more, they don't care about cost.

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Edit: Space is hard and extremely expensive. Nothing we do will ever make it less hard but we can make it less expensive.
USG doesn't want/need it to be cheap, they like it expensive, because then they're the only "superpower" that can do it, if they have the whim to do so.

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We do that by moving the industries needed to support that into as shallow a gravity well as is reasonable to support human habitation AND industry - the moon.
"We" is the problem. It isn't defined. That's why it doesn't happen.

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Hobby exploration - done infrequently from the surface of the earth at enormous cost.
Things like MoonEx (but I don't think Bob Richards will go anywhere, long story).

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Serious exploration - done often from the moon at much less cost (once up and running).
Planetary Resources, but Eric Schmidt is easily distracted by asteroids and isn't attracting other investors and the correct talent. He's in search of "unicorn" asteroids.

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The first place in the solar system to colonize is the moon, not Mars.
Musk and Larry Page say Mars and give good reasons, like atmosphere and more accessible differentiated mineralogy.

The best argument for the Moon is accessibility. To that end, an architecture that exploits correct resource placement improves upon that. Thus use of gravity/placement of stations/deployment to surface and return matter most. Ignoring it means you might as well just pay the cost to travel to Mars. Because one sacrifices the principle advantage.

Next, there's no obvious exploitable asset visible, and no one to want to consume it. (Think of the pickaxes and shovels for the gold rush.) So, as an example, an architecture that allows for widespread surface access that mines/produces/consumes/distributes propellant means that commercial/govt/scientific activities can rely on, rather than having to bring along propellant (so instead of paying for SHLV to get the props there, they pay you for the props already there).

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The purpose of that colonization is to build and operate a thriving industry there designed to support routine space exploration and human expansion into the solar system.
Backwards. The thriving industry brings along communities because it is easier to stay then have to go/come back. And, because they are there and someone wants something closer (in terms of delta-v) than Earth, they contract for it, again to save on building the SHLV to do so.

Which is in part why initial investments in SHLV actually ended up defeating what you desire. Obviates the need.

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Build our first colony close to home and with a long-view purpose.
They start out ramshackle and short term focused. They get refined because people get tired of disasters and fixing them, so eventually they are built to last.

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We need to become a 2-planet economy that will enable everything else; earth/moon.
Moon-first and that's why.
Likely if you build up the moon first, you create a resource economy that feeds orbital businesses (like Bezos wants), and possibly supplies propellant to solar system exploration/development. Might even specialize in deployment/servicing of spacecraft as well.

Mars might be similar, but more likely building a bootstrap economy like a pioneer town in the plains or west in the 1800's. Possibly experts in deep space missions, especially to the outer planets/asteroids/comets.

Now back to cislunar station and exploration architecture.

Frankly, to get what you want, EML 1/2 actually ... slows it down. The issue is how to get "in channel"  lunar surface activities ... to any cislunar (or further) activity - look at ULA's cislunar economy work as an example (not the best but C+ work).

Widespread access to the lunar rock, much like with reuse and launch frequency, speeds any science product, ISRU, mining, production, assay or other activity. And even with lowest/least delay, you've got that 2km/sec coming and going to deal with.

How do you best use HLO/EML 1/2? Barter delta-v to access destinations and await the need for orbital concentrations in such places, which happens late in exploration/economic development.  Because it's virtue as an architectural addition is to be a "halfway point" between cislunar and the rest of the solar system.

If the moon is a bust for early exploration/industrialization (for what ever reason), these high orbits become a better place to start by aggregating resources before "jumping off". Likely as an alternative to something like a BFR, which obviates the need for such aggregation.

Likewise, on the other extreme,  if you can build a DST and have eyes for beyond cislunar, a flyby/orbital/rendezvous mission is the best means for a "standoff" exploration architecture over that of LOP-G. Minimum cost/risk/time, maximum national pride gain.

Both don't get you your grand vision. Carefully examine architecture to see if it even assists in moving just an iota towards such.

Most of what is being proposed ... doesn't. Just delays. I've hinted at things that don't.

Offline yg1968

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Mike Pence in his speech said he wants the government to become the tenant and customer of commercial systems.  He also talked about international partnerships.  I don't think the international partnerships will happen until the US commits to something first.  If the LOP-G gets this process started, it won't be the most technically efficient way of getting things done, but if it lays the ground work for commercial investment and international partnerships to add the Power Propulsion Elements, landers, depots, habitats, etc.  then it just may be the right course of action.  It would fit in with what Trump talks about for public private partnerships for infrastructure.  I'm beginning to like this plan a bit more.

Just to be clear, Pence was talking about LEO commercial habitats, not the LOP-G. But, yes if the LEO commercial habitats are successful, they could eventually replace the LOP-G in cislunar space.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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I strongly suspect that by fuel depot Vice President Mike Pence means a propellant depot selling both fuel and oxidiser. The politician called it a fuel depot because the general public knows what fuel is. I am making the distinction because I have see engineers take such statements too literally.

Offline speedevil

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Edit: Space is hard and extremely expensive. Nothing we do will ever make it less hard but we can make it less expensive.

I disagree somewhat with this.
Making it less expensive can make it lots less hard.
Cargo to ISS is of the order of $10000/kg.

As an extreme case, if we imagine $10/kg to ISS orbit, you can do life support on around 100 tons for 6 people a year, on $1M.

You go to the store and buy meals, freeze them, use commercial off the shelf dewars to hold the air, and bottled water, and you're about done, with your only life support equipment being a big pile of dewars slowly evaporating naturally over a couple years, bottled water, frozen food, and a valve that pops off at 14PSI.






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