Saturday, June 1, 2013

Budget Moon Flights: letter to NASA.

 Copyright 2013 Robert Clark

 The cost to NASA for lunar or other BEO missions can be cut drastically, perhaps by three orders of magnitude, by following a combination of four cost-cutting approaches.

1.)Commercial space approach. SpaceX and now Orbital Sciences have shown that as much as 90% off of the development cost can be cut by the cost-sharing of the commercial space approach.

2.)Go small. NASA’s SEV weighs about a third that of Orion. Orbital’s Cygnus weighs about a quarter. Imagine how small, and low cost, your lunar mission could be if you only had to transport a quarter of the mass to the Moon.

3.)Use existing components. The huge development costs for the Apollo program and of Constellation were because they had to use all newly developed components. Those costs would be reduced greatly if you only had to adapt already existing components. No Saturn V, Ares V, or SLS, and their huge development costs, required.

4.)Use international partners. The cut in development cost by engaging in cost-sharing is already included in the commercial space approach. However, the cost to NASA can be cut even further by sharing development costs with our international space partners such as the ESA and Japan.

   Bob Clark


Subject :

Budget Moon Flights.

Date :Fri, May 31, 2013 07:40 AM EDT
From :"Robert Clark" <****@****.edu>
To :****.****
 Charles Bolden has said that NASA won't us return to the Moon in our
lifetime. However, it's important to keep in mind that such negative reactions
to lunar return are based on the false premise that such a return has to be
hugely expensive. It doesn't.

 Simply by going small such a return can be done for costs in the range NASA
typically spends on its lowest cost, "discovery class", planetary missions,
i.e., in the range of a few hundreds of millions of dollars. This is very
important because rather than going over the constant wrangling with Congress
about funding such multi-billion dollar missions, NASA can simply pull it out
of their discretionary spending.

  I discuss such low cost flights here:

Budget Moon flights: lightweight crew capsule.

  If one uses false premises, one draws false conclusions. So it's very
important to bring to light the fact that expensive policy decisions are being
made by NASA based on incorrect assumptions.

 Given the success NASA has had at cutting costs with its commercial
spaceflight program, NASA should be directed to solicit proposals from
industry for following the cost-cutting commercial approach to produce
small-sized return to the Moon missions.

  The proposals should have as requirement to use at most a crew capsule the
size of the SpaceX Dragon, which is half-size to NASA’s Orion capsule. And
ideally the capsule should even be the size of Orbital Science’s Cygnus
capsule (adapted to carry crew), which is only one-fourth the size of Orion. 

  Imagine how small, and low cost, a Moon mission could be if you only had to
send one-fourth the mass to the Moon?

  Still, such a small, low cost approach, would be controversial on safety
grounds. Then the Robonaut would be ideal to test the feasibility of such a

SpaceX Dragon spacecraft for low cost trips to the Moon, page 3: Falcon Heavy
for BEO test flights.

 This suggests using the Falcon Heavy test flights beginning in 2014 to do
unmanned test flights to the Moon and to NEO's with the NASA SEV as crew
capsule, "manned" by Robonauts.

 It would be even of lower cost if using the smaller Cygnus as the "crew"
capsule, instead of the SEV. In this case, when carrying Robonauts, you would
not even have to give it life-support, though you would still need to give it
a heat shield. This scenario could be done with a single launch of the Delta
IV Heavy, Ariane 5, or Atlas V 551, no Falcon Heavy needed. 

 Such a mission would have even greater significance if we used it to return
samples from the permanently shadowed craters on the Moon. That way we could
prove definitely that there is abundant water ice on the Moon that can be used
for propellant. Some measurements by the LCROSS mission tentatively have also
identified valuable minerals on the Moon. Then such a sample return could also
provide justification for commercial development of the Moon.

 This scenario with the Cygnus would require one or two half-size Centaur-like
stages. A key viewpoint for such a low cost approach is to use existing
components if possible. Then rather than developing such half-size Centaurs
anew we could use the fact that the ESA already has such stages in the H10-3.
This would actually be beneficial since the current administration wants to
encourage cost-sharing partnerships in space with our international partners
and the ESA wants to do near term robotic Moon missions. We could even use the
German humanoid robot Justin as part of the "crew":

Humanoid Robot Justin Learning To Fix Satellites.
By Erico Guizzo
Posted 17 Jun 2010 | 14:14 GMT

 In addition to partnering with the ESA on such missions, NASA could also
engage in a partnership with the private ventures proposing BEO flights.
Golden Spike, Inc. would be an obvious one but so also would be the asteroid
mining ventures Planetary Resources, Inc. and Deep Space Industries. This is
because flights to many NEO's have a lower delta-v requirement than flights to
the Moon. Then the in-space stages to be used for the Moon flights could also
be used for the flights to the asteroids. Then we could have flights in the
short near term to the asteroids that returned samples that proved
definitively that NEO's can have the trillion dollar deposits of valuable
minerals that has been estimated. 

 SpaceX and now Orbital Sciences have proven that development costs can be cut
by an order of magnitude over those of the traditional fully-government funded
space projects. By following this commercial approach and also going *small*,
the development costs for BEO flights can in fact be cut by orders (plural) of
magnitude over those commonly thought needed.


    Bob Clark

1 comment:

Gary Johnson said...

Bravo! Your 4 points are dead nuts on!


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