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posted by takyon on Thursday June 30 2016, @10:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the space-rig dept.

Dubbed the "Cislunar 1,000 Vision," an initiative outlined by American launch provider ULA (United Launch Alliance) foresees a self-sustaining economy that supports 1,000 people living and working in Earth-moon space roughly 30 years from now. The basic outline is to develop re-fueling capability in Earth-moon space, perhaps by propellant made using water extracted from the moon or asteroids. This, in turn, will make it more economically feasible to get to destinations more distant. From the Space.com article:

For example, a rocket could carry just enough fuel to get to low Earth orbit and then refuel its upper stage in space to get a payload to the much more distant geosynchronous transfer orbit.

"I can potentially do that whole mission cheaper if I can get propellant cheap enough in low Earth orbit," Sowers said. George Sowers is vice president of advanced programs for Colorado-based ULA.

The concept stems from an analysis and ongoing technical work by ULA involving a souped-up Centaur rocket stage called ACES (Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage), a tanker called XEUS, and a "kit" that augments an ACES stage, allowing the vehicle to land horizontally on the lunar surface and to be stocked with moon-mined fuel for transport.

Sowers continues:

ULA will solicit proposals for ACES' upper-stage engines, tapping the technologies of aerospace companies such as Aerojet Rocketdyne, XCOR Aerospace and Blue Origin. And the U.S. Air Force is supporting some ACES work under rocket propulsion system contracts, Sowers said.

"There's a lot of activity ongoing," he said, "and we're designing a Vulcan booster to accommodate the ACES upper stage."

Vulcan is ULA's next-generation launch system. [Vulcan Rocket: ULA Unveils New Modular Launch System (Video)]

"Once we have ACES flying, sometime in the early to mid-2020s, we would be in a position to utilize space-provided propellant," Sowers said.

[...] "For the most part, the only potential customers for space-based fuel have been space agencies. But their timelines keep shifting, their budgets keep getting reappropriated and the political will to enable this kind of activity 'gets bogged down in bureaucratic zombie zones,' [mining technologies and robotics provider Dale] Boucher said. [,,,] "the ULA plan enables commercialization in deeper space and provides risk reductions for space-agency-sponsored missions."

Franchises anyone?


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Thursday June 30 2016, @11:08PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 30 2016, @11:08PM (#368196) Journal

    perhaps by propellant made using water extracted from the moon or asteroids

    Moon water should be declared a scarce resource belonging to all earthlings, and perhaps accounted for and measured as on the fictional planet Arrakis.

    Converting it into fuel to scatter around space is absurd. So is the idea of going anywhere with chemical rockets.

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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday July 01 2016, @12:30AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 01 2016, @12:30AM (#368209) Journal

    Converting it into fuel to scatter around space is absurd.

    Absurd compared to what we're using it for now? I doubt it.

    So is the idea of going anywhere with chemical rockets.

    They are what works. And they aren't that costly to operate.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Friday July 01 2016, @01:58AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 01 2016, @01:58AM (#368228) Journal

      Absurd because of the future possibilities lost.

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      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday July 01 2016, @03:17AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 01 2016, @03:17AM (#368251) Journal

        Absurd because of the future possibilities lost.

        Future possibilities that don't exist now and won't exist without the future "absurd" use of the resource. It is not that hard to get more hydrogen. The Moon is bombarded with it every day, for example

        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Saturday July 02 2016, @06:47PM

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday July 02 2016, @06:47PM (#368942) Journal

          Hydrogen is not water.

          You might have noticed a distinct lack of lakes on the moon.

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          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday July 02 2016, @09:08PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday July 02 2016, @09:08PM (#368983) Journal

            Hydrogen is not water.

            But hydrogen is by far the scarcer ingredient of water on the Moon than oxygen. There are plenty of oxides in the lunar crust.

        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Saturday July 02 2016, @06:55PM

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday July 02 2016, @06:55PM (#368950) Journal

          Future possibilities that don't exist now and won't exist without the future "absurd" use of the resource.

          But they do exist now.

          We are free to set up a permanent moon base any time we want, its easily withing our capabilities today.
          One key need is water sufficient for consumption and agriculture, and provision of oxygen.

          Water lost from the moon isn't coming back.

          --
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  • (Score: 2) by Fluffeh on Friday July 01 2016, @01:23AM

    by Fluffeh (954) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 01 2016, @01:23AM (#368222) Journal

    Actually, using water from the Moon may not be a bad idea if it allows for cheaper longer range travel in the solar system. If you can have a rocket loaded to capacity with fuel outside the gravity well of the earth, it enables much faster travel to other planets - like the moons of Jupiter/Saturn where there is more water (as well as other hydrocarbons that might make for a good fuel source - such as the methane on Titan) - with that suddenly you can then start looking at commercially lugging large quantities of water through space without the stupid costs that would be required for it at the moment.

    tl;dr
    Might be worth using some of it now, to make getting more easier and quicker in the long run.

    • (Score: 2) by physicsmajor on Friday July 01 2016, @01:47AM

      by physicsmajor (1471) on Friday July 01 2016, @01:47AM (#368227)

      Building on this, even if there's only enough for say 10-20 years you have to realize that using it appropriately as a foothold to greater things means we'll functionally be able to replace it. Comets, anyone? Frojack isn't thinking far enough outside the box.

      • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Friday July 01 2016, @11:17AM

        by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Friday July 01 2016, @11:17AM (#368365) Journal

        "Appropriately" being the key word here. Chances are someone would find it far more profitable to bottle it, ship it down to Earth and sell "premium moon water" at $20000 per litre, or waste it all as propellant for tourist joyrides, or perhaps build a gigantic low gravity lunar waterslide park. Actually that last one sounds pretty cool.