SaturnianBlue

Evolvable Lunar Architecture—Public-Private Partnerships for lowering costs

What do you think of the plan?  

2 members have voted

  1. 1. What is your opinion on the infrastructure itself?

    • It would work!
      0
    • It would work, but there are a few issues with it
      1
    • It wouldn't work at all.
      0
    • Other
      1
  2. 2. What is your opinion on the authority model?

    • It would be better than what we have now.
      1
    • It would be much better than what we have now.
      0
    • It would be worse.
      0
    • Other.
      1


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A few months ago I was browsing through Atomic Rockets when I stumbled upon a passage from a blog discussing the idea of developing a base on the moon with the help of an international authority-type organization to lead it all. The blog itself is based on a report titled "Economic Assessment and Systems Analysis of an Evolvable Lunar Architecture that Leverages Commercial Space Capabilities and Public-Private-Partnerships"—or just Evolvable Lunar Architecture. Recently I took a thorough read through the second part of the report for a big project I was working on, the part discussing the idea of an authority to help develop the Moon (the first discusses the more technical aspects of a moon base). With their approach, they believe it is possible to put people back on the moon in 5-7 years for $10 billion, and build a moon base a decade after that for $40 billion, considerably cheaper than any other approach.

The authority seems to solve the issue of unsustainable long-term planning in government and the high risk factor for private enterprises. I can't say I find any major issues with the idea apart from the few outlined in the report, but I can't say I have a thorough understanding of business either. 

I'm curious as to what everyone else thinks of the idea. Personally, it seems like implementing the ideas from the report would make space travel in general a lot cheaper, and with it a lot more development in space with propellant depots and larger, more permanent space stations. The system could probably be applied to other projects as well.

 

Edit: If you don't what to read the report, this podcast has the PI of the report discuss the key points of it.

Here are two links to articles on the report as well.

Edited by SaturnianBlue
Added another article link

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With something 100 pages long I hope your are not hoping for a comprehensive response. I have to point out several logics here.

1. Private international partnership or is this an international space project (like the ISS) between GOs (government owned).
My thoughts are this, I can see NASA giving the developers an intuitive+hand such as they have done for SpaceX (an in particular $$ULA$$$, though I think that is more DoD).
My trouble here is this arrangement between private and governmental. People got p_o d at Obama for running GM and Chrysler despite the fact GMs profit markedly improved and the governmnet got a sizable share of the money it put into pull them out of bankruptcy. Is this Group going to be like an international CIA or something say Space Intelligence gathering agency.

If NASA is only buying in services (such as robots that clean off a base for them to land, or install solar panels, or dig out an underground tunnel) I can see them throwing money into it.
But if nasa is a partner is an international civilian partnership, thats difficult for me to imagine its stable. I see they are trying to casts their nets wide, and some of the fish may be poisonous to the others.

2. I am very dubious for a project that going to be a thing 20 years from now based current technology. The only reason I like the DeltaIV rocket is its RS-68A engines, you can take the rest of that overpriced [four letter word] and toss it. I like boeing, they are a good craft builder, but they evolve too slowly and drive the costs too high. I don't really know what is going to become of atlas it has only 33 launches since 2000 of the Atlas III are higher. They are kind of using an outdated Russian RD180 engine same fuel as SPace X uses but Space X can produce then engines cheaper and more rapidly 3800 kN at MSL versus 845 kN  . . . but space X can currently recycle there's. Finally the spaceX generation block 5, IMO, is not likely to be the last in the series, each with evolving recyclability and power capabilities. The big changes are going to occur in the next 5 years and so alot of the document could be obsolete.

3. Strategically, you don't put ISRU as a method until you have a base, which means you probably will not be selling refueling services, not in 10 years, unlikely in 20 years. Get the base and sell base services. Yes, these will be as expensive as hell, so that base staff will be robots and the humans will be essentially robot cleaners and repairs. At one sixth the gravity of Earth you will have to rotate crews at least every 2 years.
Services you could seel would be to GOs and billionaires for private occupation. Before you can even test the feasibility of ISRU business you first have to have facilties. And anyone who wants to do this will have to move fast, because government plans set for moon bases will be less apt to change the closer they are to impliment those plans. How are you going to get NASA, RSA, ESA and chinese space agency to buy into the same lunar base?

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2 hours ago, PB666 said:

With something 100 pages long I hope your are not hoping for a comprehensive response. I have to point out several logics here.

1. Private international partnership or is this an international space project (like the ISS) between GOs (government owned).
My thoughts are this, I can see NASA giving the developers an intuitive+hand such as they have done for SpaceX (an in particular $$ULA$$$, though I think that is more DoD).
My trouble here is this arrangement between private and governmental. People got p_o d at Obama for running GM and Chrysler despite the fact GMs profit markedly improved and the governmnet got a sizable share of the money it put into pull them out of bankruptcy. Is this Group going to be like an international CIA or something say Space Intelligence gathering agency.

If NASA is only buying in services (such as robots that clean off a base for them to land, or install solar panels, or dig out an underground tunnel) I can see them throwing money into it.
But if nasa is a partner is an international civilian partnership, thats difficult for me to imagine its stable. I see they are trying to casts their nets wide, and some of the fish may be poisonous to the others.

2. I am very dubious for a project that going to be a thing 20 years from now based current technology. The only reason I like the DeltaIV rocket is its RS-68A engines, you can take the rest of that overpriced [four letter word] and toss it. I like boeing, they are a good craft builder, but they evolve too slowly and drive the costs too high. I don't really know what is going to become of atlas it has only 33 launches since 2000 of the Atlas III are higher. They are kind of using an outdated Russian RD180 engine same fuel as SPace X uses but Space X can produce then engines cheaper and more rapidly 3800 kN at MSL versus 845 kN  . . . but space X can currently recycle there's. Finally the spaceX generation block 5, IMO, is not likely to be the last in the series, each with evolving recyclability and power capabilities. The big changes are going to occur in the next 5 years and so alot of the document could be obsolete.

3. Strategically, you don't put ISRU as a method until you have a base, which means you probably will not be selling refueling services, not in 10 years, unlikely in 20 years. Get the base and sell base services. Yes, these will be as expensive as hell, so that base staff will be robots and the humans will be essentially robot cleaners and repairs. At one sixth the gravity of Earth you will have to rotate crews at least every 2 years.
Services you could seel would be to GOs and billionaires for private occupation. Before you can even test the feasibility of ISRU business you first have to have facilties. And anyone who wants to do this will have to move fast, because government plans set for moon bases will be less apt to change the closer they are to impliment those plans. How are you going to get NASA, RSA, ESA and chinese space agency to buy into the same lunar base?

The executive summary sums up the points from the report rather succinctly, and the blog post is fairly short, so you don't really have to read word-for-word the entire report to get the main ideas.

In the beginning the funding comes from governments, I believe, and the authority would sort of act like NASA with the COTS program. The advantage of the whole authority idea is that the authority can make more decisions themselves than NASA, so there aren't constant turnarounds in long-term priorities and less contract cancellations. Additionally, the fact that the authority is funded by multiple nations means that it isn't as bad if one nation decreases their support for the project to focus their priorities elsewhere. The authority is sort of like CERN or a Port Authority.

Honestly I haven't looked at the moon base itself as much—I tended to focus on the organization itself. Of course new developments will appear during a long-term project, but couldn't the plan be readapted then? In some ways, the report partially does this by noting that the Delta IV-Heavy and the Atlas V is going to be replaced by the fully-upgraded Vulcan, which is more capable with its refillable ACES upper stage, which could be a customer for an ISRU propellant plant. 

The crew of four are on six-month rotations. Setting up an ISRU base allows the selling the propellant to NASA and others for a Mars mission or some other major project, with profit for the authority being made by charging a fee for using the services. The profit, in turn, can be used to make a more stable economic presence on the Moon by building necessary infrastructure too risky to build for most of the private companies.

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11 hours ago, SaturnianBlue said:

Setting up an ISRU base allows the selling the propellant to NASA and others for a Mars mission or some other major project, with profit for the authority being made by charging a fee for using the services.

Assuming NASA (and/or others) are buying.  And buying in sufficient quantities to fund the whole affair.

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International authority? No. If one country is footing most of the bill, they are in charge. If this could be built with existing NASA budget, but the US wasn't in charge, I'd prefer that they keep wasting money on SLS, frankly. Any "international authority" would require exactly representational expenditure as an ante to participate or it's a non-starter to me. In other words decision making is weighted by financial contribution.

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31 minutes ago, tater said:

International authority? No. If one country is footing most of the bill, they are in charge. If this could be built with existing NASA budget, but the US wasn't in charge, I'd prefer that they keep wasting money on SLS, frankly. Any "international authority" would require exactly representational expenditure as an ante to participate or it's a non-starter to me. In other words decision making is weighted by financial contribution.

Even if the US isn't being represented on the basis of financial contribution, they could still have a lot of leverage by controlling funding for the authority and threatening to decrease it in order to get the authority to do what the US wants it to.

 

54 minutes ago, DerekL1963 said:

Assuming NASA (and/or others) are buying.  And buying in sufficient quantities to fund the whole affair.

I think it's fairly plausible—for one thing, ULA already has plans for an orbital propellant depot in their cislunar 1000 plan, which is doubtless optimistic but it does show they have interest in that. Space-based propellant would make a lot of space industries more viable, like orbital tugs and asteroid mining.

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I think we should simply dump the space treaty, and do whatever we/ our companies want to do (owning property in space, etc).

 

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13 hours ago, SaturnianBlue said:

 fully-upgraded Vulcan, which is more capable with its refillable ACES upper stage, which could be a customer for an ISRU propellant plant.

That's like saying that the BFR is going to land on Mars in 2033. I keep have to reminding everyone here proof of the pudding is in the eating. This would not need to be done so often if you would just keep in mind the failure rate of planned systems for use in space. Its not a triviality to argue that nothing 'having to deal with space' is set until the rocket is on its way.

We dont have to be that critical, but synopsis are easy to write, I saw one awhile back where we are going to use lasers to beam spacecraft to alpha centuri, its a great idea!!!!! but only when it happens.

Yes DeltaIV and Atlas are a thing, but they are not a sustainable thing despite haveing very valuable components. The atlas has been around for ages, which any observer would ask the question why hasn't its cost per inflation gone considerably down. I would argue that its probably never going to compete. And a moon based ISRU system, if it needs anything, it needs sustainability. Your cost per 6 month rotations are going to be extremely expensive (not just warm bodies, but food, fuel, air, medical suppies,  reentry vehicles), so how do you trade ISRU based fuels to get that cost down and cheaper than SX basically transporting fuel with FH to MOI or whatever transfer system. You cannot at least not without both SX and government(s) cooperation on many sides. This is where the problem falls in, why would many government support the same unitary goal of having an ISRU base on the moon, if not why would they share the output.

Quote

Setting up an ISRU base allows the selling the propellant to NASA and others for a Mars mission or some other major project, with profit for the authority being made by charging a fee for using the services. The profit, in turn, can be used to make a more stable economic presence on the Moon by building necessary infrastructure too risky to build for most of the private companies.

Something even close to a proof is warranted.

34 minutes ago, tater said:

I think we should simply dump the space treaty, and do whatever we/ our companies want to do (owning property in space, etc).

 

It needs to be revised, but I would have trepidations regarding the unintended consequences. Currently there is a static logic for space fairing countries to apply (or stealth around) which bounds the obeyance. If you opened the treaty the natural flow would be to retest those boundaries again. I think that for military function the bounds will be tested sooner (than exploration) rather than later. 

Edited by PB666

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1 hour ago, SaturnianBlue said:

I think it's fairly plausible—for one thing, ULA already has plans for an orbital propellant depot in their cislunar 1000 plan, which is doubtless optimistic but it does show they have interest in that.

Just because someone is interested in producing something, that doesn't mean there are buyers for that something.   Back in the 60's plans for optimistic space futures abounded.  And in the 70's.  And in the 80's.  And...  well, you get the picture.  Plans are a dime a dozen.  No, correct that, there's a vast oversupply of plans and they'll pay you to haul them off to the recycling center.

What there's a shortage of is actual markets and customers willing to shell out the megabucks needed to execute the plan.
 

1 hour ago, SaturnianBlue said:

Space-based propellant would make a lot of space industries more viable, like orbital tugs and asteroid mining.


More viable is not the same as actually having customers.  Space tugs are only useful when you have something to tow, and a destination at each end.  It's not lack of cheap fuel that's holding them back, it's lack of a point.  The same thing goes for asteroid mining... lack of customers for the end product is the problem, not lack of cheap fuel.

That's the basic problem that your scheme fails to address - for it to become viable, someone else has to spend huge chunks of cash to provide you with a market.  Until you solve that problem, all we're doing here is (for the nthousandth time) indulging in intellectual masturbation.

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1 hour ago, PB666 said:

That's like saying that the BFR is going to land on Mars in 2033. I keep have to reminding everyone here proof of the pudding is in the eating. This would not need to be done so often if you would just keep in mind the failure rate of planned systems for use in space. Its not a triviality to argue that nothing 'having to deal with space' is set until the rocket is on its way.

We dont have to be that critical, but synopsis are easy to write, I saw one awhile back where we are going to use lasers to beam spacecraft to alpha centuri, its a great idea!!!!! but only when it happens.

Yes DeltaIV and Atlas are a thing, but they are not a sustainable thing despite haveing very valuable components. The atlas has been around for ages, which any observer would ask the question why hasn't its cost per inflation gone considerably down. I would argue that its probably never going to compete. And a moon based ISRU system, if it needs anything, it needs sustainability. Your cost per 6 month rotations are going to be extremely expensive (not just warm bodies, but food, fuel, air, medical suppies,  reentry vehicles), so how do you trade ISRU based fuels to get that cost down and cheaper than SX basically transporting fuel with FH to MOI or whatever transfer system. You cannot at least not without both SX and government(s) cooperation on many sides. This is where the problem falls in, why would many government support the same unitary goal of having an ISRU base on the moon, if not why would they share the output.

Something even close to a proof is warranted.

It needs to be revised, but I would have trepidations regarding the unintended consequences. Currently there is a static logic for space fairing countries to apply (or stealth around) which bounds the obeyance. If you opened the treaty the natural flow would be to retest those boundaries again. I think that for military function the bounds will be tested sooner (than exploration) rather than later. 

The report mentions that the Evolvable Lunar Architecture approach is based on urban design studies inspired by biological systems for a system that can be stable and be sustained through unexpected events. I cannot claim to have read this report, and I haven't really read the entire section dedicated to risk management for the plan, but it does mention one of the features of the system is that they can be adapted for change.

As for a quick synopsis... The goal of the report was to assess if it was possible for America to help return to the Moon, establish a moon base with the help of private partnerships, all for the current human spaceflight budget. They found that they could return to the Moon for about $10 billion in the next 5-7 years if they had two competing commercial launch providers and set up a more permanent base a decade later and provide 200 MT an year for about $40 billion. An authority model based on CERN and transport authorities would be the best way to manage the risks involved in the project. 

I didn't say anything about the Atlas V or Delta IV being sustainable or anything. Part of the authority's role is to make it easier for private companies like SpaceX to do contracts. SpaceX can be part of the plan—the Falcon Heavy would be hugely beneficial by allowing for much larger spacecraft. Having an ISRU base would make more permanent habitats in space a lot easier by getting resources that usually have to be lifted from Earth. 

Now that I think about it, would the propellant depot even have to make a profit? As long as the private companies are paid more than they put into the project, and the governments get a cheaper ride in space, does it have to repay itself? 

1 minute ago, DerekL1963 said:

Just because someone is interested in producing something, that doesn't mean there are buyers for that something.   Back in the 60's plans for optimistic space futures abounded.  And in the 70's.  And in the 80's.  And...  well, you get the picture.  Plans are a dime a dozen.  No, correct that, there's a vast oversupply of plans and they'll pay you to haul them off to the recycling center.

What there's a shortage of is actual markets and customers willing to shell out the megabucks needed to execute the plan.
 


More viable is not the same as actually having customers.  Space tugs are only useful when you have something to tow, and a destination at each end.  It's not lack of cheap fuel that's holding them back, it's lack of a point.  The same thing goes for asteroid mining... lack of customers for the end product is the problem, not lack of cheap fuel.

That's the basic problem that your scheme fails to address - for it to become viable, someone else has to spend huge chunks of cash to provide you with a market.  Until you solve that problem, all we're doing here is (for the nthousandth time) indulging in intellectual masturbation.

I wouldn't say it's my own scheme—if you haven't yet, it would be best to look at the report itself. I certainly don't know every part of it—my main interest was with the authority system. As for space tugs, you could have them go down to LEO and push a spacecraft to where it needs to go, allowing spacecraft to be bigger for the same rocket. I suppose the issue with that would be the actual rendezvous process. Alternatively instead of a tug I suppose they can be made tankers instead. Right—mining on itself doesn't have benefit.

However, if you could build a manufacturing plant, you could build in space without hauling things into space from the Earth and save considerable money. I understand that space manufacturing would be quite a few decades away, so that would not be an immediate benefit.

 

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A lunar base in my opinion is a logical step to do along the path of exploration and research.

Honestly I'm skeptic about the main purpose of the base (ISRU plant). If they told "we need some ISRU to fuel the reusable landers" [Lunar surface -> LLO] it would make sense to ease the transfers to the surface, but basing all the papers on the hypotesis to SELL the produced fuel to third parties using EML2 and LEO [why LEO??] depots is unrealistic.

As others said, fuel is cheap and we don't have the need to develop a completely new technology to fill the tanks in our backyard. Just send up a Falcon 9 RTLS with 12t of fuel... Should be around 5k$ per kg of fuel delivered in LEO, less if launch prices go down. Good luck beating that price with the ISRU from lunar surface.

For the base the joint operation between space agencies (ISS style) is the most probable to succeed because it's already been proven, although the progress will be rather slow. I cannot see any chance of a "space race 2.0" coming in the next years.

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49 minutes ago, SaturnianBlue said:

I didn't say anything about the Atlas V or Delta IV being sustainable or anything. Part of the authority's role is to make it easier for private companies like SpaceX to do contracts. SpaceX can be part of the plan—the Falcon Heavy would be hugely beneficial by allowing for much larger spacecraft. Having an ISRU base would make more permanent habitats in space a lot easier by getting resources that usually have to be lifted from Earth. 

And I, in the case of the moon, not a training exercise but in term the economy of physics can this be proven. If it can be proven to be true then why aren't we doing it. Again I don't think they have added anything that makes this case true. NASA doesn't seem to think at the moment that ISRU is economical, just as nuclear/decay power is not economical in space, but sometimes you have no choice but to use it. Under those circumstances you minimize the use by economization (such as shutting down instruments on voyager).

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35 minutes ago, Hesp said:

A lunar base in my opinion is a logical step to do along the path of exploration and research.

Honestly I'm skeptic about the main purpose of the base (ISRU plant). If they told "we need some ISRU to fuel the reusable landers" [Lunar surface -> LLO] it would make sense to ease the transfers to the surface, but basing all the papers on the hypotesis to SELL the produced fuel to third parties using EML2 and LEO [why LEO??] depots is unrealistic.

As others said, fuel is cheap and we don't have the need to develop a completely new technology to fill the tanks in our backyard. Just send up a Falcon 9 RTLS with 12t of fuel... Should be around 5k$ per kg of fuel delivered in LEO, less if launch prices go down. Good luck beating that price with the ISRU from lunar surface.

For the base the joint operation between space agencies (ISS style) is the most probable to succeed because it's already been proven, although the progress will be rather slow. I cannot see any chance of a "space race 2.0" coming in the next years.

The Cis-Lunar 1000 report implies that it would be cheaper to send payloads from the Lunar surface—of course, the Falcon 9 and other such vehicles are going to be making LEO a lot cheaper to reach, so that probably won't be true. Not an LEO depot—my thought was that you might be able to send down a tanker from EML2 to refuel something in LEO, though that too would be much less effective with a Falcon 9.

 

I think our discussion of the ISRU aspect of the moon base basically puts forth that ISRU is not necessarily a profitable business for a moon base/EML2 propellant depot. What then, would be a better industry for either a Moon base or just cis-Lunar space in general?

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11 minutes ago, SaturnianBlue said:

 

The Cis-Lunar 1000 report implies that it would be cheaper to send payloads from the Lunar surface—of course, the Falcon 9 and other such vehicles are going to be making LEO a lot cheaper to reach, so that probably won't be true. Not an LEO depot—my thought was that you might be able to send down a tanker from EML2 to refuel something in LEO, though that too would be much less effective with a Falcon 9.

 

I think our discussion of the ISRU aspect of the moon base basically puts forth that ISRU is not necessarily a profitable business for a moon base/EML2 propellant depot. What then, would be a better industry for either a Moon base or just cis-Lunar space in general?

I read that report but the only useful slide is the #21, and yet they don't specify HOW delivering from the Moon to LEO will be cheaper than launching directly from Earth.

Bringing fuel down a gravity well only to refuel a ship that has to climb that gravity well again is plain stupid, and should be done only when other options aren't available.

Personally, if we need fuel in EML1, I'd start research on some "dumb" ion tankers that travel from LEO without hurry.

 

I don't have the competences to say what could be a profitable business on the Moon. Before reaching that stage it should be only seen as a research outpost, in my opinion.

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There is nothing on the Moon valuable enough to export. Past that, ISRU basically just offsets some of the costs of maintaining a presence there.

I just don't see a way to bootstrap any sort of economy in space that involves humans... except maybe tourism (in a distant future where safety and cost are far better).

 

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5 hours ago, tater said:

There is nothing on the Moon valuable enough to export. Past that, ISRU basically just offsets some of the costs of maintaining a presence there.

I just don't see a way to bootstrap any sort of economy in space that involves humans... except maybe tourism (in a distant future where safety and cost are far better).

 

They could do the dirty work for NASA or the Russian, clearing bases flattening surfaces, getting rid of moon dust, mining out occupation bunkers underground. Less romantic but more valuable.

Lots of good comments and critiques.

Edited by PB666

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12 hours ago, SaturnianBlue said:

I wouldn't say it's my own scheme—if you haven't yet, it would be best to look at the report itself. I certainly don't know every part of it—my main interest was with the authority system. As for space tugs, you could have them go down to LEO and push a spacecraft to where it needs to go, allowing spacecraft to be bigger for the same rocket. I suppose the issue with that would be the actual rendezvous process. Alternatively instead of a tug I suppose they can be made tankers instead. Right—mining on itself doesn't have benefit.


You're defending the scheme and lauding the benefits it provides.
 

12 hours ago, SaturnianBlue said:

However, if you could build a manufacturing plant, you could build in space without hauling things into space from the Earth and save considerable money.


You don't save money by spending tens or hundreds of billions of dollars up-front and billions to tens of billions per annum in operating and support costs without a market in the hundreds of billions per annum.

That's what so many people don't get - space exploitation isn't an engineering problem.  It's an engineering problem and an economic problem and a financing problem.

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15 hours ago, tater said:

In other words decision making is weighted by financial contribution.

You dine her, you dance her.

12 hours ago, DerekL1963 said:

all we're doing here is (for the nthousandth time) indulging in intellectual masturbation.

It's an intellectual gym. Don't you feel getting stronger?..

 

12 hours ago, SaturnianBlue said:

you could build in space without hauling things into space from the Earth

Delivering almost every material from the Earth (though, construction metals - maybe from the Moon).

12 hours ago, SaturnianBlue said:

Having an ISRU base

Either with super-powerful nuclear reactor (not yet ready) to replace chemistry with physics or having to put this in orbit:

Spoiler

Hutte2.jpg

So, estimate how much does this plant weight and compare its mass to the total mass of the space fabric production.
Won't it be easier to deliver the ready-to-use production right from the Earth plant?

Just like with food and greenhouses. When a human consumes ~350 kg of food per year, it's much easier to send him cans from time to time than a 20 t greenhouse.

8 hours ago, tater said:

There is nothing on the Moon valuable enough to export.

A moonshine?
No, seriously. If something shines on the Moon, it's either an ice, or a metal.
Of course, not to the Earth. (It's enough of it here.)

8 hours ago, tater said:

in space that involves humans... except maybe tourism

Who needs to risk and suffer him/hersself when you can send a rented anthropomorphic avatar with improved skin sensitivity - to touch the bare rocks which you already had seen million times with 3d-Skype.
By adding 20 credit units you additionally receive a special hydraulic gadget which allows you to 3.14 on the moon rocks.
(In a distant future).

3 hours ago, PB666 said:

They could do the dirty work for NASA or the Russian, clearing bases flattening surfaces, getting rid of moon dust, mining out occupation bunkers underground. Less romantic but more valuable.

And if they work good, they send them some food.

Upd.: Instant noodles. To motivate them to search the lunar water.


***

We have to just face that no real spacexpansion until at least gaseous fission reactors get implemented and widely used.

  • ISP too low
  • delta-V too big
  • ISRU still chemical, weigths a lot, needs materials weighting even more
  • Thousands tonnes of fuel to be delivered to LEO by burning hundreds thousands tonnes of fuel, and mostly to be lost if it is cryogenic.
  • Ion thrusters too slow, too expensive to be widely used for heavy cargos
  • Delivering several humans per time in a capsule differs from delivering hundreds or thousands of them per year. This means that an artificial 1 g becomes a must have, because it allows to make the working shifts much longer, replace the personnel far less frequently.

When the gaseous fission reactors appear:

  • ISP rises up to tens km/s
  • You can use much less fuel per flight. You can deliver it at once, not in several launches, and keep in a cryostate powered by the reactor, preventing its losses.
  • ISRU has a lot of energy, and instead of the chemical sorcery just heats and blows the moleculas with pure energy. 3d printing becomes a thing. ISRU plants get much smaller.
  • No more real need in ion thrusters.
  • Long-lasting rotating space stations with 1 g gravity. You can hold people beyond the Earth for years and decades.
  • Waste recycling gets much easier. Any "waste" becomes a "raw material".
Edited by kerbiloid

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5 hours ago, DerekL1963 said:


You're defending the scheme and lauding the benefits it provides.
 


You don't save money by spending tens or hundreds of billions of dollars up-front and billions to tens of billions per annum in operating and support costs without a market in the hundreds of billions per annum.

That's what so many people don't get - space exploitation isn't an engineering problem.  It's an engineering problem and an economic problem and a financing problem.

That is the reason why in the next sentence I pointed out that any manufacturing plant would be "decades away" at best.

I'm aware of that fact—if it was a mere engineering problem, then we probably would have a lot more in space. It appeared that this had the solution to the other problems, of course, but it does seem now that this is not exactly it. I would certainly think it is better than some other motivation thrown out there for putting infrastructure and a lot of resources into space, but it simply is not good enough, then. I suppose this report validates the notion that it really is hard to find a financial motive for settling space.

Edited by SaturnianBlue

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I added a link to a podcast that discusses some of the major points of the report for anyone who doesn't want to read through the report.

@DerekL1963

I think we've concluded that fuel production doesn't really work for profit. However, I found a fairly relevant bit from the podcast around the 50 minute mark, one of the questions points out that lifting by Falcon Heavy would probably be cheaper, and the answer was basically:

1. Falcon Heavy works best for LEO

2. Fuel at EML2 is more valuable, and the Falcon Heavy would have to use a lot of delta-V to get there

3. The fact is, they didn't do a proper economic analysis for propellant—the study is limited in scope and fairly low-budget ($100,000) as well, so they didn't consider the other options, like asteroids, Deimos, and from Earth

Additionally, it was mentioned the study was more about achieving goals cheaper with a strategy (much like the COTS program) for deep space in general.

In hindsight it was probably a poor idea for me to add "A Cheaper Way to the Moon" for the title, since that isn't really what the study is about.

Something I found interesting from the podcast was the idea that billionaires but also countries would pay for a ticket to the moon, I suppose like how it is done on the Soyuz. Probably wouldn't be enough to pay off the base, but an idea nonetheless.

Edited by SaturnianBlue

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