The LEO Fuel Line Concept

Dwight Huth

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Oct 22, 2019
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Concept to get fuel into space cheaply.

Getting fuel into space without using fuel to into space is rather counter-productive to say the least.

When I was young I played with Space LEGO. One of the concepts that I built was a refueling station. The concept involved using a flimsy hose connected to the top of a rocket cone. The other end of the hose I connected an amber colored clear piece that was the connection point for the next hose.

In theory the first part of the hose would reach from LEO to the ground where the rocket capsule would descend to Earth with the hose attached to the top of it. Miles and miles of guide wires connected to a station that has tanks on it and separate of the ISS, don't tell me how much fun it would be to have the guide wires attached to the ISS while the rocket is descending would be though. As the rocket descended closer to the ground the station would start to take up the slack and eventually pull the hose to the station where it would be connected.

Another idea would be to use the precision of the Grasshopper to launch to various altitudes. Once at the determined altitude the Grasshopper would connect to the other hose using a probe and drogue set up that is similar to how military planes refuel in mid-air.

As the Grasshopper descends back to Earth the new hose section and drogue are deployed, connected to the one before it until the fuel line reaches Earth. Emergency disconnects would also have to be in place to provide an emergency disconnect in the event of an emergency.

The only problem is how to pump the fuel through the vacuum of space.

With such a system in place and rocket fuel able to be pumped to the station in orbit , carrier rockets would send new age ships into space that could be refueled allowing for colonization of the Moon to take place at a much faster pace as well as Martian colonization.

The Grasshopper has already proven that it can be controlled precisely while in flight and while landing so the real problem is the mechanics of the fuel line deployment and retention system, fuel station attitude correction for fuel line tug and near end of mission connections from the ground.

My concept worked with the LEGO's rather well to be honest so I don't see to many problems with making it reality.


There are many concepts used to retrieve ships from deep in the ocean. If those concepts are employed to create the first LEO fuel line into space, Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my.
 

Dwight Huth

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Oct 22, 2019
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The base of the LEO Fuel Line would be anchored to a Hoegh Trapper car ferry.


The reason why the Trapper would be the best anchor is because of its adjustable flooring that can hold a lot of tonnage. Instead of the braking system being used to support the weight from below, the braking system would be used to support the pull of the LEO fuel station from above each deck. Being able to automatically adjust each flooring panel where other lines would be attached to, means that an automated system could be used to control the tension on each line attached to the fuel station so that the fuel lines or lines themselves would have the least amount of tug tension from the fuel station placed on its connections.


HOEGH TRAPPER (IMO: 9706918) is a Vehicles Carrier registered and sailing under the flag of Norway. Her gross tonnage is 76420 and deadweight is 20766. HOEGH TRAPPER was built in 2016. HOEGH TRAPPER length overall (LOA) is 199.9 m, beam is 36.5 m. Her container capacity is 0 TEU. The ship is operated by HOEGH AUTOLINERS MANAGEMENT AS.

20,766 deadweight tonnage should be more than enough weight to help keep the fuel station in orbit. The Trapper would basically be the stations anchor as the station pulled the Trapper through the water with the Trapper providing a counter force of resistance. A sea based system would be better than a land based fuel line anchor due to the station pulling on the Earth at over 20,000 kmh might pull some of the Earth up causing artificial Earth quakes.

With the station anchor being sea based and having a lane to travel in across the surface of the ocean also means that if the lines should break they would fall harmlessly into the ocean.

Basically the entire system would be like flying a Power Kite. The User would be the Trapper and the fuel station the kite, both entwined in a delicate dance of tension and release.

The only problem that remains is how to effectively get the fuel and guide lines from LEO to the Trapper.
 
Oct 21, 2019
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Geosynchronous Orbit is 22,236 miles above sea level. That is the balance point at which an object will stay in synchronous orbit around the Earth without falling inward. In order for an object to stay tethered in orbit at that altitude, and equal length of tether (hose) would have to extend out another 22,236 miles, or a massive weight equal to the weight of the tether, extending thousands of miles past GSO, about 1/10th the distance to the Moon. The International Space Station orbits at 254 miles at a velocity of 17,150mph, which would be ~16,100mph faster than the tether/hose if it was going in the same direction.
 
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Dwight Huth

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Oct 22, 2019
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Geosynchronous Orbit is 22,236 miles above sea level. That is the balance point at which an object will stay in synchronous orbit around the Earth without falling inward. In order for an object to stay tethered in orbit at that altitude, and equal length of tether (hose) would have to extend out another 22,236 miles, or a massive weight equal to the weight of the tether, extending thousands of miles past GSO, about 1/10th the distance to the Moon. The International Space Station orbits at 254 miles at a velocity of 17,150mph, which would be ~16,100mph faster than the tether/hose if it was going in the same direction.
So the idea isn't actually impossible like you are saying then. I envisioned 20 foot in diameter steel cables running to the fuel station and getting smaller in diameter the closer to the fuel station. Then there is the problem of material failure due to the extreme temperatures of space making the space based cables very brittle.


We could always use rope made of wood fibers...somehow that started out as a funny joke.

Obviously the guide lines and fuel lines would have to be protected with a type of a thermal blanket that would reflect atoms away from the surface of the metal. One idea could be to use carbon fiber, then same material that is used in the fuel tanks of Elon Musk's BAFT for the Mars Colony Vessel. The carbon fibers would be wound into strands that would form each guide line. In the center of the carbon fiber line, titanium threads would be woven into each strand for a stronger tensile strength. Each three strand guide line would then have its own carbon fiber sheath that would be formed in such a way to look like the exterior of an actual rope. In theory the design of the carbon fiber sheath would not only protect the interior strands from both space and atmospheric elements, the twists would also help keep the carbon fiber strands more secure to reduce fatigue. Coils placed at very locations down the guide lines to the anchor ship would allow each section to flex slightly to reduce fatigue as well.

In the premise the idea would work. Getting the guide lines to the surface wouldn't be that difficult given the success of Musk's reusable rocket.

The guide line layer rocket would be a standard Space X Starship modified to dock with the fuel station in LEO. During re-entry a slow burn would be needed to ensure the guide and fuel lines being pulled back to Earth did not get tangled.

Its an ambitious project to say the least. Lots of engineering costs and maintenance costs as well.Maintenance would be a nightmare when repairing or replacing guide lines and fuel lines.

I even thought about an Eiffel Tower design but on a much grander scale on the measure of a 100 mile square base. The lower levels would house all of the systems necessary for cranes and elevators to move up and down the frame wile building the Tower. But the higher the tower rose into the atmosphere means there would be a lot of sway and tweaking of the framework due to high winds. To much stress at the top would cause the entire lower frame to twist, much like the wind twists a tree.

In the end a better design would be to simply put the dock able fuel station in LEO and then use Starship to re-supply the fuel station every so often with 220,000 lb's of fuel that would be needed for ships traveling to and from the fuel station to Lunar orbit and back again.

Starship would dock with the fueling station, off load its fuel and return to Earth.
 
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Oct 21, 2019
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So the idea isn't actually impossible like you are saying then.
1. That tether/hose is and always will be impossible to build without Unobtainium.
2. There is no way that tether/hose could supply fuel to anything in any Low Earth Orbit.
3. There is no need for a fuel supply in Geosynchronous orbits.
Lowest LEO: 100 miles, 17,454mph, orbital period 1.4 hours.
ISS orbit: 254 miles, 17,150mph, orbital period of 1.5 hours.
Highest LEO: 1200 miles, 15,500mph, orbital period 2 hours.
That means a Earth tethered cable would be traveling at about 1005mph through LEO, while ALL the objects in LEO would be traveling through LEO at 17,454mph – 15,5000mph. In addition, most object would be orbiting in different orbits. Such a tethered cable would be an extreme hazard to most objects in orbit.
 
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Dwight Huth

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1. That tether/hose is and always will be impossible to build without Unobtainium.
2. There is no way that tether/hose could supply fuel to anything in any Low Earth Orbit.
3. There is no need for a fuel supply in Geosynchronous orbits.
Lowest LEO: 100 miles, 17,454mph, orbital period 1.4 hours.
ISS orbit: 254 miles, 17,150mph, orbital period of 1.5 hours.
Highest LEO: 1200 miles, 15,500mph, orbital period 2 hours.
That means a Earth tethered cable would be traveling at about 1005mph through LEO, while ALL the objects in LEO would be traveling through LEO at 17,454mph – 15,5000mph. In addition, most object would be orbiting in different orbits. Such a tethered cable would be an extreme hazard to most objects in orbit.

3, The LEO fuel station would ensure that continuous trips between the ISS and orbiting Lunar station would be cost effective.




The main reason that a LEO fuel station would be needed is too usher in a new era of space exploration involving 3D Printing.

Made in Space is a California-based company, that already worked with the NASA to create a 3D printer inside of the International Space Station (ISS). Made in Space is actually working on a new 3D printer, Archinaut, that is able to 3D print an entire satellite outside of the station. It will be launched in 2018.

With probes being able to be constructed in space the eventuality of the first hull carrying humans to the Moon, Mars and other locations, such as the Kuiper Belt becomes less costly. Instead of building hulls and engines that have to meet strict Earth based gravitational forces which requires a lot of fuel, the built-in-space hull can be built to withstand LEO and other gravitational forces that are less stressful on a built-in-space hull.

I can see 3D printing being able to build the hulls and fuel lines of the ship while other facilities manufacture the interior components or could be manufactured on Earth and then shipped to space and installed.

If the tethered fuel line would become an actual facility then there would be warning sensors pinging aircraft to stay away from the tether. The tether would also become a World Wide Colossus that would draw tourists from all over the planet to see it on a daily basis. Such an attraction would bring in vital capital to maintain the tether while building new facilities in space.

Getting fuel into space so that travel between the ISS and the Moon on a regular basis without having to spend millions on an Earth based launch system would reduce the overall cost of colonizing the Moon in the long run.

NASA can design a fuel system that transfers fuel from the station to a small transfer craft, think of the Apollo Command module, but smaller. The Lunar Transfer Vehicle is launched using NASA's heavy lifter and is docked at the ISS. The fuel station is the also launched atop NASA's heavy lifter into a higher orbit than the ISS.

The LTV fuels up and shuttles astronauts back and forth between the ISS and Moon for exploration and site development studies without the need to use a heavy lifter every time to get to the Moon.

Elon Musk would be contracted to provide ferrying services for the crews using his very safe and proven Falcon-X series of reusable rockets.

Such a system would be costly at first, more so along the concept and development and manufacturing stage, but once put in place the system would provide a constant pipeline to the Moon where the ISS would be used as a transfer point that the rest of the world would benefit from as the cost to get their people to the Moon and Back would be far less expensive then investing in their own, similar program.

Such a program does in fact need to become law, rather it would fall under the Space Command directive of funding allocations within the National Defense budget.
 
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Oct 21, 2019
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3, The LEO fuel station would ensure that continuous trips between the ISS and orbiting Lunar station would be cost effective.
If such a tether/hose could be built, which would require millions of tons of Unobtainium, how would the fuel be delivered from the tether/hose to the ISS?
 

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