Mining Lunar Argon for use by VASIMR

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oldAtlas_Eguy

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I was wondering how well a Lunar Tug using a VASIMR would be on a viable business model if all of the Argon would have to come from earth. I found out that it is rather easy to get Argon from Lunar regolith just by heating it.
http://www.geochronometria.pl/pdf/geo_33/Geo33_06.pdf
So not only mining water but mining Argon would be a good first step because of the savings both could make to an Earth-Moon transportation infrastructure. Being able to get half or most of the Argon for the TL Tug from regolith would lower operation costs. It would also increase outbound cargo for the Tug since it would not have to carry as much Argon for use on the return trip. So an increase in capability for the Tug could be had without any upgrade of the Tug at all!

I wonder how many other small little innovations there are that can make significant commercial viability impacts to the TL tug concept?
 
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aaron38

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Considering that the VASIMR tug, for a 100mT payload into LEO, already reduces the propellant mass from 60mT to 21mT while doubling cargo mass, the tug business model is already viable with all the argon coming from Earth. Use one 100mT launch for the tug, double the payload of every 100mT launch thereafter.

Your suggestion is a great idea, but it's a cost reduction/capacity enhancement. It's not needed to get the system operational, which is a good thing.

Would a Mars bound VASIMR use argon or hydrogen for the reaction mass? Lunar sourced argon could be very useful for that mission...
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

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aaron38":2l6vr5sf said:
Considering that the VASIMR tug, for a 100mT payload into LEO, already reduces the propellant mass from 60mT to 21mT while doubling cargo mass, the tug business model is already viable with all the argon coming from Earth. Use one 100mT launch for the tug, double the payload of every 100mT launch thereafter.

Your suggestion is a great idea, but it's a cost reduction/capacity enhancement. It's not needed to get the system operational, which is a good thing.

Would a Mars bound VASIMR use argon or hydrogen for the reaction mass? Lunar sourced argon could be very useful for that mission...
I haven’t seen any data for hydrogen use with VASIMR but the heavier Argon would probably be more efficient propellant than Hydrogen. Lunar Argon would be a byproduct of regolith processing so if a large amount of regolith is processed then the best would be Argon saving the Hydrogen for use in a LOX/LH2 high thrust engines. You’re right that initially a TL tug’s Argon would be supplied from Earth during Lunar base build up. Then when the regolith processing gets started more and more of the Argon for the trip back to Earth would come from the Moon as processing continued to increase. The Argon would be a small percentage of the real payload being shipped back, water. Other items such as refined rare earth ores and metals or refined metal ores could also be shipped from the Moon. Small things like using Lunar Argon can make some items that would have been uneconomical in being shipped back to Earth LEO be econimical.
 
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