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posted by martyb on Wednesday November 09 2016, @06:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the do-we-call-residents-moonies-or-loonies? dept.

According to Popular Mechanics, the Russians might finally reach the Moon... aboard an American-made Orion spacecraft en route to an internationally built and operated orbital lunar outpost:

During the past couple of years, American, Russian, European, Japanese, and Canadian officials quietly discussed a possible joint human space flight program after the retirement of the ISS. Although these five space agencies might not be on the same page as far as whether to go to the moon first or head straight to Mars, they're getting closer to an agreement that a human outpost in lunar orbit would be the necessary first step either way.

During the latest round of negotiations in Houston last month, the ISS partners narrowed down the list of potential modules that would comprise their periodically visited habitat. According to the provisional plan, four key pieces made the cut for the first phase of the assembly, which is penciled in to take place from 2023 to 2028 in lunar orbit: The spartan outpost will include the U.S.-European space tug, a Canadian robot arm, a pair of habitation modules from Europe and Japan, and an airlock module from Russia. This hardware would hitchhike on NASA's giant SLS rocket, along with the Orion crew vehicle at the top of each booster.

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Lockheed Martin Repurposing Shuttle Cargo Module to Use for Lunar Orbiting Base 28 comments

Let's just throw this old thing at the Moon and call it a day:

A cargo container that was built to fly on NASA's space shuttles is being repurposed as a prototype for a deep space habitat.

Lockheed Martin announced it will refurbish the Donatello multi-purpose logistics module (MLPM), transforming from it from its original, unrealized role as a supply conveyor for the International Space Station to a test and training model of a living area for astronauts working beyond Earth orbit. The work is being done under a public-private partnership between the aerospace corporation and NASA.

"We are excited to work with NASA to repurpose a historic piece of flight hardware," said Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin's program manager for the deep space habitat contract, in a statement.

Donatello was one of three MPLMs that was designed to fly in the space shuttle payload bay to transfer cargo to the station. Built by the Italian Space Agency under a contract with NASA, two modules, Leonardo and Raffaello, flew on 12 shuttle missions between 2001 and 2011.

Also at Popular Mechanics.

Previously: NASA and International Partners Planning Orbital Lunar Outpost
NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars

Related: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
Cislunar 1000 Vision - Commercializing Space
Forget Mars, Colonize Titan
Japan Planning to Put a Man on the Moon Around 2030

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2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration 56 comments

NASA is going back to the Moon, perhaps permanently, as seen in a new road map (image):

Four months after President Trump directed NASA to return to the Moon, the agency has presented a road map to meet the goals outlined in Space Policy Directive-1. The updated plan shifts focus from the previous "Journey to Mars" campaign back to the Moon, and—eventually—to the Red Planet.

"The Moon will play an important role in expanding human presence deeper into the solar system," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA, in a release issued by the agency.

While the revamped plan may share the same destination as the Apollo program, NASA said it will approach the return in a more measured and sustainable manner. Unlike humanity's first trip to the Moon, the journey back will incorporate both commercial and international partners.

To achieve this, NASA has outlined four strategic goals:

  • Transition low-Earth orbit (LEO) human spaceflight activities to commercial operators.
  • Expand long-duration spaceflight activities to include lunar orbit.
  • Facilitate long-term robotic lunar exploration.
  • Use human exploration of the Moon as groundwork for eventual human missions to Mars and beyond.

This may be the best outcome for the space program. Let NASA focus on the Moon with an eye towards permanently stationing robots and humans there, and let SpaceX or someone else take the credit for a 2020s/early-2030s manned Mars landing. Then work on a permanent presence on Mars using cheaper rocket launches, faster propulsion technologies, better radiation shielding, hardier space potatoes, etc.

Previously: President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1


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SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Could Launch Japanese and European Payloads to Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway 17 comments

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy eyed by Europe/Japan

According to RussianSpaceWeb, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket is under serious consideration for launches of major European and Japanese payloads associated with the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (formerly the Deep Space Gateway).

[...] The first payload considering Falcon Heavy for launch services is the Japanese Space Agency's (JAXA) HTV-X, and upgraded version of a spacecraft the country developed to assist in resupplying the International Space Station (ISS). HTV-X is primarily being designed with an ISS-resupply role still at the forefront, but RussianSpaceWeb recently reported that JAXA is seriously considering the development of a variant of the robotic spacecraft dedicated to resupplying the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOPG; and I truly wish I were joking about both the name and acronym).

[...] Regardless of the LOPG's existential merits, a lot of energy (and money) is currently being funneled into planning and initial hardware development for the lunar station's various modular segments. JAXA is currently analyzing ways to resupply LOPG and its crew complement with its HTV-X cargo spacecraft, currently targeting its first annual ISS resupply mission by the end of 2021. While JAXA will use its own domestic H-III rocket to launch HTV-X to the ISS, that rocket simply is not powerful enough to place a minimum of ~10,000 kg (22,000 lb) on a trans-lunar insertion (TLI) trajectory. As such, JAXA is examining SpaceX's Falcon Heavy as a prime (and affordable) option: by recovering both side boosters on SpaceX's drone ships and sacrificing the rocket's center core, a 2/3rds-reusable Falcon Heavy should be able to send as much as 20,000 kg to TLI (lunar orbit), according to comments made by CEO Elon Musk.

That impressive performance would also be needed for another LOPG payload, this time for ESA's 5-6 ton European System Providing Refueling Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPRIT) lunar station module. That component is unlikely to reach launch readiness before 2024, but ESA is already considering Falcon Heavy (over its own Ariane 6 rocket) in order to save some of the module's propellant. Weighing 6 metric tons at most, Falcon Heavy could most likely launch ESPRIT while still recovering all three of its booster stages.

Previously: NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station

Related: NASA and International Partners Planning Orbital Lunar Outpost
Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
This Week in Space Pessimism: SLS, Mars, and Lunar Gateway

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Head of Russian Space Agency Roscosmos Wavers on Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway 33 comments

Russia throws doubt on joint lunar space station with U.S.: RIA

Moscow may abandon a project to build a space station in lunar orbit in partnership with U.S. space agency NASA because it does not want a "second fiddle role," a Russian official said on Saturday.

[...] [The] head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said Russia might exit the joint program and instead propose its own lunar orbit space station project.

[...] A spokesman for Roscosmos said later that Russia had no immediate plans to leave the project. "Russia has not refused to take part in the project of the lunar orbit station with the USA," Vladimir Ustimenko was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.


Also at ABC (Associated Press).



Original Submission

Future of U.S.-Russian Space Cooperation in Doubt 15 comments

Russia Wants to Extend U.S. Space Partnership. Or It Could Turn to China.

The American incentives for engaging with Russia in space in the 1990s — political goals like the employment of idle rocket scientists to prevent missile proliferation — have mostly disappeared with the resumption of tensions. The Trump administration has already proposed that by 2025 the United States should stop supporting the International Space Station that is the principal joint project today. A final decision is up to Congress. The American role might be shifted to a commercial footing thereafter.

[...] [It] is unclear how much longer the post-Soviet era of space cooperation between the United States and Russia can last in the more hostile environment now surrounding relations. In the interview, [Dmitri O. Rogozin, the director of Russia's space agency,] said Russia wanted to carry on joint flights with the United States and its allies, despite the tensions over election interference, wars in Syria and Ukraine, and the chemical weapons poisoning of a former double agent in Britain.

[...] Analysts say Moscow has a strong incentive to maintain the joint program: a decided lack of money to pursue a lunar station on its own. Russia's budget for its space program is something less than one-10th what the United States spends on NASA. [...] Russia's preference is to press on with a space program entwined with the United States', on either the lunar program or another venture, Mr. Rogozin said. But if talks fail, Russia can turn to China or India for partnership. There might then be two stations circling the Earth or the moon, one led by the United States the other a Russian-Chinese enterprise. Mr. Rogozin even floated the idea of a "BRIC station," the acronym for the developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Mr. Rogozin in November ordered the Russian Academy of Sciences to study the prospects for a solo Russian program to build a habitable base on the surface of the moon. Ivan M. Moiseyev, the director of the Institute of Space Policy in Moscow, said in a telephone interview that any proposal for a lone Russian lunar station was fantastical, given the budget constraints. "The technical capability exists, but the finances don't."

The U.S. and NASA could develop stronger partnerships with the European Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Indian Space Research Organisation instead.


Related: Price War Between SpaceX and Russia

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday November 09 2016, @06:41PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday November 09 2016, @06:41PM (#424791)

    - Why bother orbiting the moon when the gravity well isn't very deep?
      - How much would be saved by launching a rocket engine to attach to the ISS and pushing that up to the moon slowly, rather than declaring it obsolete and letting it burn? Without air friction to take it down, even when it eventually becomes too old to permanently live in, it'd still be a giant storage/automated assembly room in lunar orbit.

    • (Score: 2) by RedGreen on Wednesday November 09 2016, @08:36PM

      by RedGreen (888) on Wednesday November 09 2016, @08:36PM (#424836)

      Makes sense and very little new funding involved so will never happen.

      "I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday November 09 2016, @09:09PM

      by frojack (1554) on Wednesday November 09 2016, @09:09PM (#424852) Journal

      storage/automated assembly room in lunar orbit

      Assembly room?
      There really isn't anything you need in space that can be assembled in the ISS.

      The ISS wouldn't even make a good hotel for assembly workers sent to bolt together a mars rocket.

      If you want to get some residual value out of it, why not try to land it (piecemeal) on the moon. Because that's something we just assume can be
      done on Mars (as long as you don't send the ESA to do it), but nobody has demonstrated with anything bigger than a Volkswaggen.

      Like the Shuttle, there is no longer any useful or necessary science being conducted on the ISS, its a huge waste of resources.
      Its time to de-orbit it before it starts killing people.

      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09 2016, @09:14PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09 2016, @09:14PM (#424855)

        Make up your mind! De-orbit or land on the moon?

        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday November 10 2016, @12:33AM

          by frojack (1554) on Thursday November 10 2016, @12:33AM (#424935) Journal

          Make up your mind! De-orbit or land on the moon?

          Land on the moon allows re-use, but requires new technology.
          Deorbit sends it to the scarp heap at the bottom of the ocean but costs nothing.

          Making that decision is above my pay grade. The point is to get out of that thing, before some poor crew has to bail out in panic in a Soyuz and the whole thing comes crashing down in some unplanned way.

          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10 2016, @02:46AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10 2016, @02:46AM (#424968)

      The send-ISS-to-the-moon (or similar) thing has been proposed before, but is actually pretty hard, and as others have pointed out, pretty useless. To pile on with a couple more reasons ISS is relatively useless in lunar orbit (or the more commonly-suggested destinations, GEO or L1):

      It's designed with the radiation characteristics of LEO in mind. MEO is the worst, but GEO and beyond are substantially more hostile (to both semiconductors and life) than LEO; ISS doesn't have appropriate shielding measures for these. (And you basically get to choose between a low-thrust profile where it spends a long time in the Van Allen belts on the way out, and needs lots of extra radiation shielding, or a high-thrust profile to minimize radiation dose, where you need minimal extra radiation shielding, but lots of structural reinforcement.

      Thermal considerations -- LEO means spending a lot of time in Earth's shadow, which means less heat load. The radiators would likely be insufficient for operation in higher Earth orbits or lunar orbits.

      If we're going to send up a big enough rocket and enough fuel to send a >400-ton space station from LEO to lunar orbit, it's not that much more expensive to also send a 400-ton space station that's actually suited to lunar-orbit operations. It might be worth salvaging some parts of ISS before it's eventually deorbited (e.g. solar panels and radiators), and using them for other purposes, but even then, it may be cheaper to launch new solar panels with better kW/kg figures, than to drag the old heavy ones so far up the gravity well.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09 2016, @07:39PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09 2016, @07:39PM (#424811)

    Will it be ready by January 20?

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by ikanreed on Wednesday November 09 2016, @09:17PM

      by ikanreed (3164) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 09 2016, @09:17PM (#424857) Journal

      And if it can only support a few people, is there any possibility of deorbiting the moon into the planet?

  • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09 2016, @08:38PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09 2016, @08:38PM (#424838)

    Like Trump will allow money to be wasted on things like science, when there are walls to build and immigrants to hate.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10 2016, @12:20AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10 2016, @12:20AM (#424929)

      Trump won't be president of Europe or Japan any time soon. Canada, I'm not so sure.