Author Topic: NASA-Funded Study on Low-Cost Public-Private Return to the Moon  (Read 37581 times)

Offline Proponent

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At the National Press Club on 20 July,  NexGen Space LLC presented a NASA-funded study of returning humans to the moon with heavy reliance on commercial systems.  An exectuve summary of the report from the press release from the Space Frontier Foundation's website is attached below, as is the study itself (downloaded from www.researchgate.net).

I have not yet started to read the report, as I'm still in shock that NASA would fund a study (reviewed, by the way, by many ex-NASA people) suggesting it's possible to return to the moon cheaply by using commercial launch vehicles rather than SLS.
« Last Edit: 07/21/2015 10:32 AM by Proponent »

Online MATTBLAK

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But... But... We're going to Mars, aren't we?! Doesn't matter that this proposal has merit - NASA is gonna get that big budget increase real soon to go to Mars... (crickets chirping)

...But seriously, I'm glad that proposals like this surface from time to time. NASA, working with private industry could get the job done relatively quickly, or private space alone a little slower. We all need to give this some thought!
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Offline Proponent

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The is report written with an eye on Mars: the point is using lunar resources to make Mars missions much cheaper.  Specifically, it is suggested that the number of SLS launches for a Mars mission could be reduced from 12 to 3.  Politically that's got to be pretty helpful: there is still a role for SLS, and (according to the report), a commercially-boosted lunar return makes the economics of an SLS-boosted Mars mission much less implausible.

Added missing "is" and "ing" in opening sentence.
« Last Edit: 07/21/2015 05:43 PM by Proponent »

Online MATTBLAK

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I like that the Phase 1 Evolvable Lunar Architecture uses distributed, multi-launches of the Falcon fleet and also doesn't rule out using other launchers (they mention ULA's Vulcan DRM material came a bit late to be included in this paper). But by using Vulcan along with the Falcon Heavy, they wouldn't need 4x launches to assemble each phase of the lunar sortie mission; only three. Also, they would only need to 'surge' to more launches as the architecture/DRM grows in capability and complexity.
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Online ThereIWas3

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Tthe first listed non-technical risk factor is "Instability of USG long-term commitments".    That a NASA-funded study comes right out and says this is interesting.  They propose an International Lunar Authority modeled on CERN to deal with that.  (The name Lunar Authority makes me think of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress...)

Something I do not see addressed is that the ISRU fuel-manufacturing facility contains a 10-ton SNAP-50a nuclear power source, with no discussion of who is going to be willing to launch such a thing these days.  As I understand it, even-numbered SNAP designs are not RTGs.  A SNAP-10a was launched in 1965 and lasted 43 days before a faulty command receiver shut it down.  It is still up there...
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Offline TrevorMonty

Had quick read of some of this paper.
1) They are relying modified SpaceX equipment but there are no SpaceX employees named in credits and I doubt they've consulted officially with SpaceX as there are some mistakes that SpaceX would have picked up. $90m for 53t to LEO for FH is not correct, the listed price was $135M last I read.


Offline gbaikie

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I think NASA should lunar exploration program which cost less than 40 billion and entire program should take less than 10 years.
The program should include a depot in LEO [LOX- and maybe hydrogen or other fuel]. Program should start with robotic missions and end with manned exploration missions. No base. Though perhaps missions to make landing areas. And develop way to land multiple mission in same area- one call it a base, but not really.

Purpose of lunar exploration is determine if and where there could be commercially minable lunar water- but it's exploration to determine where on the lunar this could be possilbe. And includes lunar sample return- probably as part of manned lunar landing.
The lunar program also testbed for Mars exploration. And goal of Mars exploration is to find locations on Mars which could support future Human settlements.
So similar to lunar exploration, in sense that NASA is not going to "make" Mars settlements, but will explore Mars in order to determine where and how Mars settlement could be viable.
Mars of course has lots of water as compared to the Moon, but what would make a desirable location of settlement of Mars is region which easy access to a lot of water. So perhaps drilling wells on Mars which could allow a lot water to be pump from them, would good location for settlements on Mars.
So purpose of bases on Mars is to find such areas where there could access to a large amount of water, and it's unlikely that NASA base will landed in such a location. So site location of NASA base may be based upon a good location to get say hundreds of tonnes of water over a decade, and location for settlement would location where millions of tons of water could cheaply extracted over decades of time.
Other things other than an abundant water, could be things like natural underground caves and other things which could make living on Mars cheaper.

So bases are required for Mars exploration, lunar bases are not required to find minable lunar water, though if lunar water is commercially mined, such an area could be a good locations for research bases, or commercial living areas ["hotels"] or other lunar activity [say, telescopes].

So good portion of the 40 billion spent on lunar exploration is attempting to find best location to commercial mine lunar water. And aspect of commercial lunar mining could connected to being able to make cheapest electrical power- which could be solar power. So water deposits which close to regions which have more than 50% of the time in sunlight. and also a means of communication with Earth for teleportation from Earth.
A lot of the Mars testbed related to Lunar exploration would be the use of robotic exploration which is teleoperated. Or going to use lot of robotic exploration of the Moon, and with Mars bases, one will be using a lot robotic exploration [teleoperated from Mars base] to explore Mars.
So with Lunar exploration first sent the bots, then follow up with crew going to site, same with Mars, first sent bots, then crew from Mars base could go to site first explored with bots.
So idea is to use robots, but not have requirement that robotic have to do everything require to explore a area.

Offline kch

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The first listed non-technical risk factor is "Instability of USG long-term commitments".    That a NASA-funded study comes right out and says this is interesting.

That it is -- and it's about time somebody said it.


They propose an International Lunar Authority modeled on CERN to deal with that.  (The name Lunar Authority makes me think of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress...)

Sounds a lot more workable than what we have now.

Offline Rhyshaelkan

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It is what I have said before. 10,000,000 space fans and proponents chipping in $100 a year would make a $1B/year private space program. That could buy say 4 Falcon Heavy launches and the payload for them per year. 200+ tons of stuff to grow your Lunar endeavors.
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Offline sdsds

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Wow. A grammatical error in a key sentence. :(

Something akin to a Freudian slip, perhaps?

"SpaceX currently operates the Falcon 9 that has a payload of 13.1t to LEO at 28.5° at a per launch cost of $62.1M ($4750/kg) as per there Web site."
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Offline kch

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Wow. A grammatical error in a key sentence. :(

Something akin to a Freudian slip, perhaps?

"SpaceX currently operates the Falcon 9 that has a payload of 13.1t to LEO at 28.5° at a per launch cost of $62.1M ($4750/kg) as per there Web site."

... to differentiate it from "as per here Web site", yes?  Might plausibly be a Freudian schlep ... ;)

Offline sdsds

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Having now looked at (if not read) each of the 151 pages, I conclude the major point in this proposal is the creation of an, "International Lunar Authority [...] more like the CERN at first, but [...] designed with all the powers of the PA-NYNJ model to start using as the economic activity on the Moon grows."

On the technical side I think the paper does a good job presenting a vision leveraging "development of a large reusable LOX-H2 lunar lander." As I understand it, all the propellant used by this lander comes from lunar surface ISRU, and the lander is at first used to bring down to the lunar surface from LLO the more massive elements of the crew-occupied lunar base. Once that task is complete it is then further used to export lunar propellant to an EML depot. Did I understand that part correctly?
« Last Edit: 07/22/2015 05:02 AM by sdsds »
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Offline redliox

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Sounds promising.  Next trick would be selling this to the winning presidential candidate.  Won't get into politics too deeply but odds are there will be some game changes with the next president; as much as I'd love to see work on Mars this ARM nonsense over the last 8 years hasn't done much.

It should be child's play for even a commercial company to get something circling the Moon (or to the Lagrange points); landing will be the true challenge.  I think it's only been a lack of will to return to put equipment back on Luna versus actual technical challenge that's kept robots away.

The diagram showing how SpaceX would get to Luna needs 8 to 11 launchers, which seems like a lot of effort.  However, it probably would be less costly and cumbersome than 2 SLS launches with quicker turnaround between the launches (versus perhaps 2 months or more if the SLS ends up akin to STS).  The lander is smaller yet more versatile than Apollo's LEM; I suspect it might draw on surface infrastructure for support but the setup on a whole seems capable of repeating the Apollo effort so long as you don't mind multiple medium-size rockets.

I wouldn't mind returning to the Moon, especially if it could happen within 10 years instead of 20+ like it increasingly looks for Mars.
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Offline muomega0

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It is no surprise that if you replace a 1B rocket and 1B capsule with no missions with a 100M rocket and 100M capsule that the possibility of a mission will result.  Unfortunately, it is not the most economical architecture to reach *ALL* the destinations and it did not include the non-sole source launch costs, nor include the IPs in the launch manifest.

What is interesting is the study does not mention methane, which of course increases chemical IMLEO to Mars vs LH2 by ~25%. It would be more efficient to mine water from something with less gravity too.

Next trick would be selling this to the winning presidential candidate.  .... as much as I'd love to see work on Mars this ARM nonsense over the last 8 years hasn't done much.
ARM is struggling because the HLV and capsule are not up for the task due to a narrow focus on the moon-Lost in Space indeed.  With a focus on the moon, you do not require the ability for long duration space travel beyond 3-20 days, nor the ability to service satellites, the L2 transfer tug is all chemical, and the depot is placed at L2  to exclude all other LVs that cannot reach L2 ::)

With a LEO depot and fuel transfer, a very cool asteroid visit is now within reach to gradually demonstrate the ability for long duration space travel for both crew and hardware and is combined with EP to begin the more economical Mars  and its moons excursions. 

Affordability begins with:
- A LEO ZBO Gas Station  (allows multiple LVs to deliver propellant on their own schedule)
- EP tugs to ferry propellant and hardware on more efficient trajectories
- LVs, transfer stages, and all hardware design with the goal of reuse and commonality to reduce costs
- Deep Space Habitats acting as Voyagers
- Missions that avoid gravity wells until long duration space travel is demonstrated.

Stage 70% of the mass in LEO:  Class D propellant.  Design the LEO ZBO depot for MMOD and long life.

By starting with an architecture that includes the ability to refuel with multiple LVs in LEO, a focus on reuse of common hardware, and continuous technology development, the US can lead the way on economical next generation Exploration architecture and most agree would merit a plus up. The vision of depots and staging, in work for decades, points the space-fairing nations toward that limitless frontier.
« Last Edit: 07/24/2015 02:06 AM by muomega0 »

Offline JasonAW3

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I'm thinking a combination of Lunar resources and NEO asteroid and cometary materials could be used to set up a MAINTAINABLE infrastructure for both Mars missions and lunar facilities.

     Obviously, using the moon first to establish the basic infrastructure, including fuel refinment and orbital storage, would be the best way to start, but by utilizing NEO's for resources, you provide a resoursce source for a fuel cost far below even the fuel cost of launching from the moon, and you can also reduce potentile impact hazards to Earth by redirecting those self same NEOs either to a lunar retrograde orbit or a parking orbit at L-5.

     Diverting the NEO asteroids and comets could be done with robotic systems, (although redirecting comets due to both higher velocity and random outgasing, may require a more hands on approach) minimzing any exposure to either radiation hazards or microgravity issues.

    If a more hands on approach for NEO asteroid or cometary diversion is required, boring into the mass of either could be a good alternative to minimize radiation hazards while an inflatible rotation section could be mounted to the exterior of the NEO, utilizing materials excavated as shielding around the habitable sections of the rotational section.  It may even be possible to utilize a rotational section, using either deployable and retractible masses, or simply centrifugaly flung masses of material from the NEO, to alter the course of the NEO, with little to no actual expendature of fuel from the capture vehicle itself.

    But even with this in mind, a return to the moon, with a manned base, would be critical to a semi-automated  operation of NEO diversion and retreival, as it would provide additional control systems for such systems, in addition to Earth based systems.
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Offline gbaikie

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I'm thinking a combination of Lunar resources and NEO asteroid and cometary materials could be used to set up a MAINTAINABLE infrastructure for both Mars missions and lunar facilities.

I would say such MAINTAINABLE infrastructure would be for Mars settlement and lunar commercial activity
as well as NASA continued exploration of the Solar system as well many variety of governmental projects.

But first what NASA should do is explore the Moon to determine if and where there is commercially minable
lunar water.
Such NASA lunar exploration does not require much infrastructure [does not require lunar base nor governmental lunar and/or asteroid mining] it should establish a depot at LEO, which could used for Lunar and Mars exploration.
Such Lunar exploration would first start with a dozen or so robotic mission to Lunar poles, finishing with human exploration. Then once NASA has determine if and where there is minable deposit of lunar water, NASA then explores Mars. Continuing the strong lunar robotic program by focusing it upon Mars exploration
and the establishment  of Mars bases so as enable extensive Mars exploration which is focused on finding Martian resources which needed for future Mars settlements.

Such NASA lunar exploration could be finished by 2025. And also NASA should be finished with ISS. But NASA finishing with ISS should not include de-orbiting ISS, rather NASA needs to establish a way that the international Space Station can continue to be used by other nations space agencies as well as the private sector in general. So this probably requires putting ISS into a higher orbit and possibly include having ISS with enough shielding against that higher radiation environment, but for NASA part, it's mothballing ISS, in such a manner that it can un mothballed by other parties wishing to use it.
And this allows NASA, once it's finished spending yearly budgetary funds on ISS and lunar exploration, to devote more funding needed for Mars Exploration program, which begins in 2025.
« Last Edit: 07/23/2015 05:57 PM by gbaikie »

Offline nadreck


Such NASA lunar exploration could be finished by 2025. And also NASA should be finished with ISS. But NASA finishing with ISS should not include de-orbiting ISS, rather NASA needs to establish a way that the international Space Station can continue to be used by other nations space agencies as well as the private sector in general. So this probably requires putting ISS into a higher orbit and possibly include having ISS with enough shielding against that higher radiation environment, but for NASA part, it's mothballing ISS, in such a manner that it can un mothballed by other parties wishing to use it.
And this allows NASA, once it's finished spending yearly budgetary funds on ISS and lunar exploration, to devote more funding needed for Mars Exploration program, which begins in 2025.

I don't think anyone can justify the expense of maintaining ISS when comparing it to the cost of new station or stations. The ISS design is simply one that requires to much support both in space and on the ground. In theory at least, the lessons learned at ISS should allow any new station being built to require substantially less support.
It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

Offline gbaikie

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Such NASA lunar exploration could be finished by 2025. And also NASA should be finished with ISS. But NASA finishing with ISS should not include de-orbiting ISS, rather NASA needs to establish a way that the international Space Station can continue to be used by other nations space agencies as well as the private sector in general. So this probably requires putting ISS into a higher orbit and possibly include having ISS with enough shielding against that higher radiation environment, but for NASA part, it's mothballing ISS, in such a manner that it can un mothballed by other parties wishing to use it.
And this allows NASA, once it's finished spending yearly budgetary funds on ISS and lunar exploration, to devote more funding needed for Mars Exploration program, which begins in 2025.

I don't think anyone can justify the expense of maintaining ISS when comparing it to the cost of new station or stations. The ISS design is simply one that requires to much support both in space and on the ground. In theory at least, the lessons learned at ISS should allow any new station being built to require substantially less support.

Prior to ISS, I don't think many people thought a space station would cost more than 3 billion per year to maintain it.
Now, ISS as shown that space station are things that cost more than 3 billion dollars per year to maintain,
and this idea will persist until new evidence is provided.
I don't think people should think that space stations will cost over 3 billion per year, and that international space stations are then crashed into the atmosphere, deliberately.
 

Offline nadreck


Prior to ISS, I don't think many people thought a space station would cost more than 3 billion per year to maintain it.
Now, ISS as shown that space station are things that cost more than 3 billion dollars per year to maintain,
and this idea will persist until new evidence is provided.
I don't think people should think that space stations will cost over 3 billion per year, and that international space stations are then crashed into the atmosphere, deliberately.

But to not crash it into the atmosphere means someone must pony up enough funds to keep it functional to be able to dodge space junk otherwise it could contribute to accelerating the Kessler syndrome. This might not cost all $3B for the first few years, but it would be a blank cheque to whatever maintenance was needed at some future date to keep it functional. This isn't just a matter of sending up propellant for the thrusters.  Again I suggest the interested parties could create whole new stations more cheaply than maintaining the ISS for a year or two.
It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

Offline Rocket Science

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Pssst... This thread is about the Moon.... ;)
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