Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cislunar transportation: the space trucking system

The concept of the way-station could be extended from cislunar space to Mars or elsewhere in the solar system, as needed For AIAA gathering in 2012, a lunar lander departs from L2 [John Frassanito & Associates].
John K. Strickland
The Space Review

Many people wonder what all the fuss is all about when they keep hearing the phrase “cislunar architecture.” Many of us are using the phrase to refer to what is essentially a space trucking system, with the equivalent of truck stops and cargo loading yards (freight terminals). Lets use the trucking analogy to explain what we are talking about.

You do not use an expensive truck to carry a load just a single time, and then immediately send the truck to the junkyard to be scrapped. Trucking businesses could not operate this way. Some truck cab and trailer combinations today are probably worth close to a quarter million dollars new. Some cabs alone are close to $100,000 used. Most of the current rockets used today cost over $100 million, so large rockets can be up to 1,000 times more valuable than a tractor-trailer, yet all of them smash into the ocean or desert and become scrap metal after just one flight.

For rockets that take off from the ground, one obvious way to allow re-use is for them to land on the ground intact. SpaceX and some other companies are trying to do just that. Quite a few rockets have now accomplished short flights and landed again safely. Without wings, the landings must be vertical. Re-use with a vertical landing was first done by the DC-X at White Sands on September 11, 1993.

For rocket vehicles in space, the problem is different. We do not want to bring the vehicle back to the ground to refuel, since it is extremely costly to get it up into space in the first place. Once it is in orbit, we want to be able to re-use that vehicle in space over and over again.

Read the full article HERE.

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