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The influence of lunar propellant production on the cost-effectiveness of cislunar transportation systemsIt is well known that propellants produced at the points of destination such as the Moon or Mars will help the economy of space transportation, particularly if round trips with a crew are involved. The construction and operation of a lunar base shortly after the turn of the century is one of the space programs under serious consideration at the present time. Space transportation is one of the major cost drivers. With present technology, if expendable launchers were employed, the specific transportation costs of one-way cargo flights would be approximately 10,000 dollars/kg (1985) at life-cycle cumulative 100,000 ton payload to the lunar surface. A fully reusable space transportation system using lunar oxygen and Earth-produced liquid hydrogen (LH2) would reduce the specific transportation costs by one order of magnitude to less than 1000 dollars/kg at the same payload volume. Another case of primary interest is the delivery of construction material and consumables from the lunar surface to the assembly site of space solar power plants in geostationary orbit (GEO). If such a system were technically and economically feasible, a cumulative payload of about 1 million tons or more would be required. At this level a space freighter system could deliver this material from Earth for about 300 dollars/kg (1985) to GEO. A lunar space transportation system using lunar oxygen and a fuel mixture of 50 percent Al and 50 percent LH2 (that has to come from Earth) could reduce the specific transportation costs to less than half, approximately 150 dollars/kg. If only lunar oxygen were available, these costs would come down to 200 dollars/kg. This analysis indicates a sizable reduction of the transportation burden on this type of mission. It should not be overlooked, however, that there are several uncertainties in such calculations. It is quite difficult at this point to calculate the cost of lunar-produced O and/or Al. This will be a function of production rate and life-cycle length. In quoting any cost of this nature, it is very important to state the cumulative transportation volume, since this is a very sensitive parameter. Nevertheless, cost models must be developed now to understand fully the interdependencies of a large number of parameters and to provide the best possible data for planning purposes. Without such data, mission modes and vehicle designs or sizes cannot be selected intelligently.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Conference Paper
Koelle, H. H.
(Technische Univ. Berlin, Germany)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
September 1, 1992
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Johnson Space Center, The Second Conference on Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century, Volume 2
Subject Category
Propellants And Fuels
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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