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#1 2022-04-13 18:29:59

Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 10,828

Propellant Sourced from Moon

For SpaceNut ... we have numerous topics that contain the word "Propellant" but none was a good fit for this article

It is a report on a study done in 2017, by Caltech students.

I decided to pursue it because Dr. Johnson was asked about sourcing propellant from the Moon for the Mars flight.

Here is a list of existing topics:

In-Situ Propellant Production, design a opensource demonstrator by SpaceNut [ 1 2 3 4 5 ]
Unmanned probes    105    2021-10-19 01:41:00 by SpaceNut
ISRU propellant production - energy requirement for the BFR? by louis [ 1 2 3 … 8 ]
Interplanetary transportation    179    2021-10-05 21:23:22 by SpaceNut
A new propellant(s) for Mass Driver propulsion methods. by Void
Interplanetary transportation    6    2021-09-06 20:50:40 by Void
Algae based solid propellant? by Calliban
Interplanetary transportation    17    2021-08-17 10:20:38 by GW Johnson
Using the landing propellant tank as a storm cellar by Quaoar
Interplanetary transportation    14    2020-12-20 16:47:19 by tahanson43206
Powering a Propellant Plant Facility by louis [ 1 2 ]
Human missions    47    2019-10-22 20:41:16 by Oldfart1939
High Isp storable propellant rocket by Quaoar [ 1 2 ]
Interplanetary transportation    28    2019-03-19 12:27:30 by tahanson43206
Liquid stage propellant tank design by RobertDyck
Interplanetary transportation    5    2018-12-28 14:29:03 by SpaceNut
excess of propellant for safety margin by Quaoar
Interplanetary transportation    6    2018-11-22 13:18:58 by SpaceNut
Best propellant & stuff for a Mars spaceship and lander by Quaoar [ 1 2 3 ]
Interplanetary transportation    63    2018-10-02 18:07:35 by kbd512
Detailed consideration of Mars ISRU propellant plant by louis
Human missions    3    2018-06-27 19:40:37 by SpaceNut
Sample Return with In-Situ Propellant Production by JoshNH4H
Unmanned probes    9    2017-01-14 14:05:55 by SpaceNut
Organometallic Propellant by Quaoar
Interplanetary transportation    23    2014-04-14 16:13:53 by GW Johnson



#2 2022-04-13 18:30:20

Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 10,828

Re: Propellant Sourced from Moon … icle-99974

Mining the moon for rocket fuel to get us to Mars
Published: May 14, 2017 8.04pm EDT •Updated: May 18, 2017 9.01am EDT
Gary Li
Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles

Danielle DeLatte
Ph.D. Student in Aeronautics & Astronautics, University of Tokyo

Jerome Gilleron
Ph.D. Candidate in Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Samuel Wald
Ph.D. Student in Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Therese Jones
Ph.D. Candidate in Public Policy, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Disclosure statement
Gary Li receives funding from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

Danielle DeLatte receives funding from the University of Tokyo.

Jerome Gilleron is a member of Space Generation Advisory Council.

Therese Jones receives funding from the Homeland Security Operations and Analysis Center and the National Defense Research Institute. She is affiliated with RAND.

Samuel Wald does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Between the Earth and the moon: An artist’s rendering of a refueling depot for deep-space exploration. Sung Wha Kang (RISD), CC BY-ND

Forty-five years have passed since humans last set foot on an extraterrestrial body. Now, the moon is back at the center of efforts not only to explore space, but to create a permanent, independent space-faring society.

Planning expeditions to Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor is no longer just a NASA effort, though the U.S. space agency has plans for a moon-orbiting space station that would serve as a staging ground for Mars missions in the early 2030s. The United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is planning a lunar fueling station for spacecraft, capable of supporting 1,000 people living in space within 30 years.

Billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Robert Bigelow all have companies aiming to deliver people or goods to the moon. Several teams competing for a share of Google’s US$30 million cash prize are planning to launch rovers to the moon.

We and 27 other students from around the world recently participated in the 2017 Caltech Space Challenge, proposing designs of what a lunar launch and supply station for deep space missions might look like, and how it would work.

The raw materials for rocket fuel

Right now all space missions are based on, and launched from, Earth. But Earth’s gravitational pull is strong. To escape Earth’s gravity, a rocket has to be traveling 11 kilometers a second – 25,000 miles per hour!

Any rocket leaving Earth has to carry all the fuel it will ever use to get to its destination and, if needed, back again. That fuel is heavy – and getting it moving at such high speeds takes a lot of energy. If we could refuel in orbit, that launch energy could lift more people or cargo or scientific equipment into orbit. Then the spacecraft could refuel in space, where Earth’s gravity is less powerful.

The moon has one-sixth the gravity of Earth, which makes it an attractive alternative base. The moon also has ice, which we already know how to process into a hydrogen-oxygen propellant that we use in many modern rockets.

Roving Luna
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite missions have already found substantial amounts of ice in permanently shadowed craters on the moon.

Those locations would be tricky to mine because they are colder and offer no sunlight to power roving vehicles. However, we could install big mirrors on the craters’ rims to illuminate solar panels in the permanently shadowed regions.

Mining operations on the moon, an artist’s rendering. Sung Wha Kang (RISD), CC BY-ND
Rovers from Google’s Lunar X Prize competition and NASA’s Lunar Resource Prospector, set to launch in 2020, would also contribute to finding good locations to mine ice.

Imagining a moon base
Depending on where the best ice reserves are, we might need to build several small robotic moon bases. Each one would mine ice, manufacture liquid propellant and transfer it to passing spacecraft. Our team developed plans to accomplish those tasks with three different types of rovers. Our plans also require a few small robotic shuttles to meet up with nearby deep-space mission vehicles in lunar orbit.

An artist’s rendering of lunar rover concepts. Sung Wha Kang (RISD), CC BY-ND
One rover, which we call the Prospector, would explore the moon and find ice-bearing locations. A second rover, the Constructor, would follow along behind, building a launch pad and packing down roadways to ease movements for the third rover type, the Miners, which actually collect the ice and deliver it to nearby storage tanks and an electrolysis processing plant that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The Constructor would also build a landing pad where the small near-moon transport spacecraft we call Lunar Resupply Shuttles would arrive to collect fuel for delivery as newly launched spacecraft pass by the moon. The shuttles would burn moon-made fuel and would have advanced guidance and navigation systems to travel between lunar bases and their target spacecraft.

A gas station in space

An artist’s rendering of a fuel depot for refueling deep-space missions. Sung Wha Kang (RISD), CC BY-ND
When enough fuel is being produced, and the shuttle delivery system is tested and reliable, our plan calls for building a gas station in space. The shuttles would deliver ice directly to the orbiting fuel depot, where it would be processed into fuel and where rockets heading to Mars or elsewhere could dock to top up.

The depot would have large solar arrays powering an electrolysis module for melting the ice and then turning the water into fuel, and large fuel tanks to store what’s made. NASA is already working on most of the technology needed for a depot like this, including docking and fuel transfer. We anticipate a working depot could be ready in the early 2030s, just in time for the first human missions to Mars.

To be most useful and efficient, the depot should be located in a stable orbit relatively near both the Earth and the moon. The Earth-moon Lagrangian Point 1 (L1) is a point in space about 85 percent of the way from Earth to the moon, where the force of Earth’s gravity would exactly equal the force of the moon’s gravity pulling in the other direction. It’s the perfect pit stop for a spacecraft on its way to Mars or the outer planets.

Leaving Earth
Our team also found a fuel-efficient way to get spacecraft from Earth orbit to the depot at L1, requiring even less launch fuel and freeing up more lift energy for cargo items. First, the spacecraft would launch from Earth into Low Earth Orbit with an empty propellant tank.

An artist’s rendering of a solar electric propulsion tug above an asteroid. NASA
Then, the spacecraft and its cargo could be towed from Low Earth Orbit to the depot at L1 using a solar electric propulsion tug, a spacecraft largely propelled by solar-powered electric thrusters.

This would let us triple the payload delivery to Mars. At present, a human Mars mission is estimated to cost as much as US$100 billion, and will need hundreds of tons of cargo. Delivering more cargo from Earth to Mars with fewer rocket launches would save billions of dollars and years of time.

A base for space exploration
Building a gas station between Earth and the moon would also reduce costs for missions beyond Mars. NASA is looking for extraterrestrial life on the moons of Saturn and Jupiter. Future spacecraft could carry much more cargo if they could refuel in space – who knows what scientific discoveries sending large exploration vehicles to these moons could enable?

By helping us escape both Earth’s gravity and dependence on its resources, a lunar gas station could be the first small step toward the giant leap into making humanity an interplanetary civilization.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to clarify the distinction between escape velocity and the velocity needed to achieve orbit.

How The Conversation is different
Every article you read here is written by university scholars and researchers with deep expertise in their subjects, sharing their knowledge in their own words. We don’t oversimplify complicated issues, but we do explain and clarify. We believe bringing the voices of experts into the public discourse is good for democracy.

Beth Daley
Editor and General Manager



#3 2022-04-13 19:19:51

From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 25,989

Re: Propellant Sourced from Moon

You are wanting a lunar insitu fuel and what the possibilities are are limited as the only water are in deep shadow craters, there is no source for carbon to speak of and the oxygen is locked up in oxides of metals. Sure for a period of time the sun will be constant but its followed by an equal time in which there is no power. That said nuclear is the stable option to make use of for processing and for mining.

Since we need an oxidizer and a fuel we are out of luck if only half of what we need can be made. Then what you make must be compatible to work with the engines that might not be of the same fuel types.


#4 2022-04-17 18:48:00

From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 25,989

Re: Propellant Sourced from Moon

Repost for topic reference point of GW's study.

tahanson43206 wrote:

Here is a direct link to a file prepared by GW Johnson as a preliminary response to a request from the North Houston chapter of National Space Society. … f.pdf?dl=0

This is a preliminary version of a study of lunar sourcing of propellant for Large Ship flights to Mars and return.

The document is intended for discussion in this evening's US/Canada/Mexico Zoom, hosted by kbd512 at Midnight UTC.



#5 2022-04-17 18:58:31

From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 25,989

Re: Propellant Sourced from Moon

We know that the first issue for lunar fuel is the hydrogen as its got to have a Zero boil-off active cooling for LH2 or you leave it as water until you need it. Its also why we have issues with it for On Orbit fuel depot with LO2/LH2
Void has suggested that Regolith Water Vapor or sub surface water not just ice may be possible and that really with the above forcing the Lunar economics etc as it requires us to look at the big picture of ISRU propellant production - energy requirement for the BFR? of which is dwafted by the large ships demands...

Solar in all forms of capture do not have a flat line power delivery as it follows the arc the sun traces when using a stationary collection point. So sizing the energy use of power must also follow that same curve. Its that use of convertors and batteries that flat line the power level to a predictable level across application time usage.

For the moon this is a different cycle and alignment problem than that of earth.

The other forms of energy do not follow this path as they generate constant power at a fixed rpm of rotation. They do suffer the same effects if you are varying the rpm as solar does.

Using solar to move a content to a higher energy potential allows for the flow to be metered to get the energy back out and its that control of flow to create rotation that allows for a constant power level once more from stored energy.

Of course gravity on the moon may not be of much advantage as it is here on earth.

Electrolysis on mars, earth, moon all have the issue of power constant use among other issues.


#6 2022-07-09 15:47:30

Registered: 2006-03-23
Posts: 3,360

Re: Propellant Sourced from Moon

Rotating Hygrogen-Oxygen detonation engine, tested by Florida and JAXA

A race is afoot to make billions from the Moon's resources.

Chinese scientists find potential in lunar soil to generate oxygen and fuel


#7 2022-08-02 19:40:42

From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 25,989

Re: Propellant Sourced from Moon

Newest of space tug data is in the GW posting topic.

I was wondering about the refueling of a starship to transfer it to LEO amount to make it turn into a vehicle for lunar to earth orbit. I need to reread the papers to see if it's been answered.
Sire the amount of fuel being delivered from the moon to LEO would be greater than from earth to LEO but then again, the expense is how to get it back to the moon to get more and whether the moon can support this refueling.


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