Wednesday, October 24, 2012

SpaceX Dragon spacecraft for low cost trips to the Moon, page 2: Comparison to 'Early Lunar Access'.

 Copyright 2012 Robert Clark

 Early Lunar Access lander stage.

 The Early Lunar Access [1],[2], proposal of General Dynamics came as quite a surprise to those in the industry when it was first proposed in the early 90's. It suggested manned lunar missions at half the mass needed to LEO and at 1/10th the cost of the Apollo missions.
 It was based on using existing launchers with small upgrades to keep costs low. The only part of it that was technically doubtful at the time was that you could get the lightweight 2-man capsule they were proposing at only a ca. 3.7 mT crewed mass.
 Based on such a small sized capsule, they were able to get a manned mission to the Moon at only about 52 mT required to LEO using all cryogenic space stages. However, the 7-man Dragon capsule at a ca. 4mT dry mass suggests this is indeed feasible.
 It is also interesting the architecture they were proposing for low costs was similar to what I suggested for the SpaceX Dragon via the Falcon Heavy launcher. It would use a single capsule to take the crew all the way from LEO to the Moon's surface and back again, i.e.,no separate lunar crew module. Also it would use as I suggested a single lander stage to take the crew capsule from low lunar orbit to the Moon's surface and then all the way back to LEO, rather than linking up with a return stage waiting in lunar orbit for the return.
 This gives further confidence in the feasibility of the lunar lander plan using the Dragon with Centaur-style stages launched on the 53 mT Falcon Heavy.

  Bob Clark

1.)Encyclopedia Astronautica
Early Lunar Access.

2.)Lunar Base Studies in the 1990s.
1993:  Early Lunar Access (ELA).
by Marcus Lindroos
(a typo on this page: the payload adapter mass should
be 2,000 kg instead of 6,000.)


JamesG said...

The big difference and increase in scale/capability is from materials. Composites and Al-Li alloys.

Robbie said...

What I'd like to know is why we wasted the last 30 years and hundreds of billions of dollars on a spacecraft that couldn't go beyond Earth orbit? We could've been on Mars 30 years ago!

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