A BETTER way of retruning to the moon!

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frodo1008

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I hope the MODS will not mind of I place this both here in free space and over on M&L, I consider it easily that important!

OK fellow space cadets, here we go! The big thread that I originally promised.

The HOW (I will also bring out another thread on the WHY) of going back to the moon in a far less expensive, and far more reliable manner, over just the Constellation way of getting back to the moon. NASA’s (to me flawed) method of using two rocket launching systems, which MUST accomplish a very timely rendezvous in LEO, just to get a start on the journey, and MUST also come back in the Apollo style mode of a far faster entry into Earth’s atmosphere, in a far more dangerous entry that a pure space plane would have to do.

Let us make sure that we already know just where we are to begin with here.

We are now in a high LEO orbit. An orbit in an inclination above the major launching areas of the world. Somewhere between the inclination of Cape Kennedy Space Center and the European launch complex the “Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG)” in French Guiana. This orbit must be at least some 500 miles in altitude (or even higher) to ensure that a space station there never has to use expensive propellants to be reboosted in order not be dragged down by the Earth’s atmosphere (like the ISS does). It is also at this altitude to be above almost all human generated space debris

The materials for a Bigelow type of inflatable, multi module transfer space station would have been brought up on relatively inexpensive EELV types of launch vehicles. And this station consists of at least three Bigelow inflatable modules, which would cost less that 1% of the cost of the ISS (in the one to two billion dollar range). Even if it were more expensive than this it would still be at a fraction of the cost of the ISS, after all, that is Bigelow Aerospace’s main goal, to provide such stations at far less cost that some 10% of the cost of the ISS.

We the people bound for the moon would have come up on a true two stage to orbit type of space plane taxi, along with some nine of our fellow travelers, and our piloting crew. Said space plane having originally been launched either from a mother aircraft type of ship that took off from a conventional airport runway, or perhaps had a boost from a maglev type of ramped launching system. After being released from our mother ship, we then ignited our relatively small solid rocket booster(s), which got us op to some 15 to 20 mach, where we ignited our linear aerospike type of form fitting engines to get us the rest of the way up to this transfer space station. When we come back to Earth, we will use our lifting body type of undersurface (which has an advanced type of thermal protection system), along with the relatively small control surfaces of our space plane to make a safe landing back at our starting point. All of this (especially with some 5 or more flights per week) at a cost of less then $500,000 per each passenger (and as the number of passengers so increases, even that relatively low cost will go down a great deal).

Now, the space station we arrive at will be initially quite small, say a living habitat, for up to 5 rotating space station crew, a control and operations module, and a pass through from one air lock to the other transfer module. Now, eventually this would be a very good location for a far larger and more advanced “Space Hotel” type of space station. One with enough inflatable modules to actually have a spinning wheel type of artificial gravity (for the comfort of the paying passengers who stay at the hotel for some time), with a capacity for up to thousands of somewhat wealthy tourists (wealthy at least in the beginning, with the price continually coming down all the time). How would that be for a vacation destination?

OK, back to our simple beginning station. Attached to the other end of our pass through module is the actual moon going ship. Said ship does not have to be (in fact would probably be better off to not be) streamlined in any way, as it would never encounter any atmosphere in any of its travels. It would only travel between this High LEO, up to a Low Moon Orbiting Space Station. It would NOT be powered by conventional chemical fuels thrusters (maybe some small thrusters for maneuvering, that used very little propellants anyway), but would be instead powered by something such as the VASIMIR engine(s) developed by Franklin Ramón Chang-Díaz. The great advantage of such engines is that they use very little fuel, and therefore do not require large amounts of propellants to be brought up for their operation. The only draw back, (not a killer draw back by any means) is that the journey between Earth and moon stations is going to take quite a bit longer due to the less (but constant) thrust developed by such engines. But over all, such engines will turn out to be far more economical over even standard liquid engines for this travel. And will turn out to be cheaper by even further over the current Constellation concepts!

So, away we go in our Earth/moon travel buggy! We are headed for another small (initially at least) Bigelow type of inflatable space station (could even be an exact copy of the Earth station, why not?). This one in a Low moon orbit (no atmosphere to cause boosting problems). Here we again transfer, this time to a moon landing craft; such a landing craft not limited to a certain size by the ability of such a system as the Constellation to get it up to the moon. Such a craft could easily be large enough to take some 10 passengers and a piloting crew to and from the moon’s surface. It could also be available in a materials only freighter version, to take many tones of materials to and from the moon’s surface. There could even be made available at the moon space station such extra vehicles for emergency use to take crews off of the moon in case of emergencies there.

As all of this moon space station and lunar Landers would have been brought up using the relatively reliable and inexpensive exclusively VASIMIR powered Earth/moon ship, the relative costs of any amount of not only these vehicles, but also very elaborate moon bases, (say at the poles over which the station should then orbit) where both very extensive moon exploration, and even moon materials mining exploitation of the moons extensive resources, could easily and relatively inexpensively and reliably take place.

Unlike the Constellation project, this kind of true Earth/moon transportation could continually and much more reliably provide transportation for literally thousands of tons of materials from the Earth to the moon, and just as importantly thousands of workers, and eventually probably tens of thousands of moon bound space tourists also!

Using the pure private space bound launching efforts of such as spacex (Elon Musk), Virgin Galactic (Burt Rutan), and the relatively inexpensive inflatable space stations of Robert Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace, I see no practical show stoppers that such a system could not be built at least (and quite probably far less) as inexpensively than the current Constellation plans of NASA!

However, even more importantly to me at least this system would be far safer, more reliable, and sustainable that NASA’s current ideas.

The only draw back that I can see is that it might take somewhat longer to get back to the moon. But when we did get back it would be with a far greater chance of staying and utilizing the resources of the moon itself to both go on to Mars, and to eventually build a viable space faring civilization. Apollo gave us our flag planting ceremonies, and it was very good that it did so, but now it really is time to get down to actually and continually working (and with moon tourism, eventually playing, and even possibly living) on the moon!

Now, thanks for taking the time to read this relatively long post, and let the general discussions begin!
 
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tampaDreamer

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You criticise nasa for rendesvous in orbit but then do the same in your model.

Also when considering the cost of the vehicle, the passengers' time, and the amount of supplies consumed (all of which have to be brought from earth) vasimir might not be a very economical solution for passengers. Mostly we hear if it being used to transport freight for this reason. If you could warehouse the freight in earth & moon orbits, transferring stuff between your warehouses would be about the cheapest part of he whole thing.
 
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frodo1008

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The difference between my rendezvous in a High LEO with a space station, and NASA's Constellation program rendezvous, should be obvious! It is simply time, you could rendezvous with a space station anytime you wished. On the other hand, with the Constellation the Ares I HAS to so rendezvous with an (as yet even started) Ares V, in some two weeks or the entire mission is a failure. And to the taxpayers paying for these quite probable failures, that is not a very good option!!

That IS a truly vast difference in rendezvous methodologies, believe me! Heck, even the great Saturn V carried everything up at once!

You might however, very well have a legitimate point in criticizing the relative slowness of a systems employing the kind of engines as the VASIMIR engines would be for human transportation, as this would mean a relatively large increase in the life support consumable amounts of a true manned vehicle for going back and forth the to the moon. However, we do not really know what the actual progress on such propulsion systems might just be in the near future (say the next decade or so), and it could be remembered that these engines can be operated all the time, and therefore the transit time might even be far less that I was thinking.

I must admit that this should be an area for further study.

But as you state, if nothing else, using such engines for pure materials transfer from an Earth orbit to a moon orbit, would be a very great propellant saver. Heck, the savings there might even to some extent make up for any possible increased costs in transporting human beings at a slower rate than using pure chemical engines!

Once again, some time and cost studies would be very welcome here!

And I am not saying that what I have outlined here could not be modified or should not be modified, merely that it would be a far better system that what NASA is now engaged in! Both for over all costs, and certainly for sustainability!
 
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kelvinzero

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My understanding is that VASIMR type propulsion would take a long time to get through the van allen belt, exposing the astronauts to a lot of radiation. Also the longer the trip, the more chance of a solar flare which is apparently hard to protect against. (once on the moon there are more options for protection)

Using the earth for breaking does seem to be a great way to save fuel, greatly increasing the mass and therefore safety. I dont know how dangerous an apollo style reentry is but it seems to have a pretty good track record and must be well developed by now. I really like the idea of being able to get home quickly in a vehicle that can reenter without relying on another vehicle.

A whole bunch of other technologies were mentioned that are not really proven yet. I know Bigilo, aerospikes, lifting bodies, VASIMR are all promising, but promises are easy.


On the other hand, they are all promising arnt they?


Instead of making a manned moon mission dependent on all these technologies, how about a more modular mission architecture that can fall back to being partially successful by at least delivering significant payloads to the moon. For example: a good solution for shuttling people to/from LEO. An efficient way (perhaps vasimr) for getting substantial payloads from LEO to lunar orbit. A descent vehicle that can land sufficient tonnage onto the moon that it could be extended to carrying people and an ascent vehicle. Incentive (but not dependence on) someone like Bigilo taking advantage of all this to extend the program to people.

This approach is quite likely not to land anybody on the moon. However each part is in itself a valuable success. If any part fails totally, the other hardware will still be useful for other missions and improved upon while an alternative is found.

I would be personally happy with an architecture that did not necessarily include people, because if you dont need to return anything you can land a lot more hardware. There is a lot we can do without people, and when all the technology has proved itself and we have a trailerpark of hardware in need of minor repair, and power and bigilo style habitats are perhaps already in place, sending people will become a more and more obvious step.

I am also moderately happy with big rockets and people though :)
 
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samkent

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This new and better idea has a lot of science fiction in it.
Space plane taxi, Space station for tourists, Moon space station, Earth/Moon buggy, Lunar space station?
Why not just beam me up Scotty?

Where are the cost savings?
 
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frodo1008

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What do you care? From most of your posts you are totally against manned space anyway!

But just to possibly educate you, the cost savings lie in the fact that the current plans will cost some $2 billion per each flight of the Orion system. And as for supplying a permanent human occupied base on the moon, we are looking at some $10 billion or more per year with the Orion system.

By coming up with going back to the moon in steps (NONE of which are SCI-FI), it might take a little more time to get back and up and running, but most of the steps are going to be necessary to bring down the costs of other things that we would be doing in manned space anyway!

Most of the posters here fully realize that we are going to need a far more reliable and inexpensive way to get up to LEO anyway, so that part of it is already covered. And as for the space stations, Bigelow Aerospace already has small test inflatables already in orbit, and they are working very well. The promise of these is that we can build far greater stations than even the ISS for a whole lot less funds! And there is no doubt that over a reasonable length of time space tourism will actually be profitable enough to fully cover the eventual costs of such space stations.

Even if the entire infrastructure of what I have outlined should come to half the Orion costs of some $100 billion, it would not only be far less expensive initially, but would be far less expensive in the long run.

But even this is NOT the main reason for my thinking here (and this was also the thinking of such as Von Braun and other far greater rocket scientists than either you or I). The main reason for this type of a system is sustainability.

We are not talking about a few boots in the sand and flag planting opportunities here, we are talking about a sustainable trans lunar space faring industry. And this is not just the heart of less expensively going back to the moon, it would also be the eventual heart of using the resources of the moon to be able to go much further out into the solar system in both a less expensive and even a far safer manner! Another thread on that subject later!

As long as it was going to be done actually making use of the already paid for shuttle propulsion (the most expensive of the components of any rocket system) components, I was for the Orion project. But since then NASA has come up with further developmental issues that are going to raise the cost of this program to quite unacceptable levels. It was only then that I started to try to even think of a better (and particularly more sustainable) way back to the moon.

Understandable?
 
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samkent

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Your plan hangs on the point of ‘sustainability’. That’s where the whole thing will fall flat.
The US won’t sustain any continuous manned presence in space. The reasons cannot overcome the huge cost in the publics mind. Without evidence of et civilization the funding will be torpedoed at some point. Even finding mice on Mars won’t justify sending men.
Sure we will do a few sample and return missions on the Moon but then politics will say “been there, done that, why are we wasting billions up there when social programs down here need the money?”. At that point NASA won’t have a good enough reason to justify the expense.

Look back when I was young and first voting, I supported a lot of the social tax issues in my community. Money for this project will solve issue X. More money for that group will help them to get a good job. Well after decades of promises to better society the tax payers wise up. There is no benefit to the majority of US tax payers from a Moon base. You can use the line “We’re perfecting the systems for use far into the future.”. But you forget most US citizens don’t even plan for their own retirement, never mind bases on Mars 50 years from now. Most of todays tax payers will be dead in 50 years.
 
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Zipi

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samkent":yur1srdc said:
Sure we will do a few sample and return missions on the Moon but then politics will say “been there, done that, why are we wasting billions up there when social programs down here need the money?”. At that point NASA won’t have a good enough reason to justify the expense.
Luckily NASA is not the only space related organization at the world. There are private companies starting to do good job with space related things like have been mentioned earlier at this thread. And don't forget the international co-operation possibilities.

Of course NASA's effort is important and it will push things greatly forward, but hopefully it is not the only thing which can make humans as a spacefaring race. And luckily it seems that we have some hope to be a spacefaring race in the long run.

And what comes to current social problems... Well... We cannot solve them all no matter how much money we will dump to those. That is unfortunately the human nature. It is much better to use the money to give a direction to people to push forward than try to nurse them through their life. And by direction I mean some great goals to achieve. At some early days those goals have been winning the war or something like that... I think we can nowadays imagine better goals to achive together as a human race if we want to.
 
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tanstaafl76

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frodo1008":1588ronv said:
And there is no doubt that over a reasonable length of time space tourism will actually be profitable enough to fully cover the eventual costs of such space stations.
Respectfully, I must disagree. It has not been demonstrated that space tourism will ever be profitable enough to cover the cost of space stations. That doesn't mean it's not possible, but to inject a little reality here, we have a long way to go before you can say there is "no doubt" that space tourism will be that profitable. In our lifetimes it may not ever get out of the stage of being a mere handful of ultra-wealthy individuals who are able to partake in the opportunity, and never on the scale necessary to support semi-permanent space stations. I certainly hope that is not what happens, but I think it is a likely possibility.
 
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scottb50

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frodo1008":1ojz3njx said:
As long as it was going to be done actually making use of the already paid for shuttle propulsion (the most expensive of the components of any rocket system) components, I was for the Orion project. But since then NASA has come up with further developmental issues that are going to raise the cost of this program to quite unacceptable levels. It was only then that I started to try to even think of a better (and particularly more sustainable) way back to the moon.

Understandable?
I have to agree the most important thing to figure out is how to get to LEO in the safest and cheapest manner, once that is accomplished the rest is pretty simple. I've been advocating a cycler system here for a number of years and still see that as the simplest and safest means of accessing both the moon and Mars. Built upon a Modular system it could lead to dramatic reductions in costs both to orbit and between various locations in Space.

The primary component of my idea is a simple container that requires two pieces, two of them identical, that could be mass produced and assembled like Legos. Minor variations of one of the pieces would allow any number of different Modular configurations. By connecting Modules an infinite number of vehicles and structures could be constructed and be modified and re-used after completing their primary missions.

As an example a TSTO launcher would use Modules as propellant tanks and SRB housings and other Modules as propellant tanks and payload containers for the upper stage. Once in orbit the tanks and containers would be refurbished and refitted for further uses.

Primary structure would be comprised of three basic elements: The end structure, that allows connection between Modules, the interconnecting framework between the ends and a simple tube. on larger Modules smaller versions of the end structures would be located around the middle allowing attachment to other Modules.
 
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