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HOW THE SPACE ISLAND GROUP CAN CUT THE TAXPAYER COST OF
The development/launch timelines for this vehicle would be shorter than those expected under the current NASA plans.
The original DC-X prototype began its flight tests 18 months after funding was secured. Tests included launches up to 25,000 feet, and tail-first landings. Bill Gaubatz, who ran that program and now consults with our group, believes that (4) orbit-ready prototypes could begin their launch and landing tests within 24-30 months of funding approval.
These first launches would duplicate the original Clipper sequence. The Earth/Lunar Clippers would travel to intermediate altitudes with extra onboard fuel. Later theyd travel to sub-orbital altitudes with a small, disposable booster. The final test will be a manned or unmanned return from orbit when the first full stack is launched in 2009-2010.
The sequence we envisioned for the Moon/Mars program would be as follows:
1.) If the first stack (Stack One) were launched unmanned, the lab/living quarters could be activated and monitored from the ground. If manned, the skeletal crew of 2 or 3 could activate and analyze the habitat section before they returned to Earth on the Clippers first reentry test from orbit.
2.) A second stack (Stack Two) would then be launched, and dock with the first. This stack would have a Clipper attached. The habitat section would be outfitted as a Lunar lab. Its wall would be thicker, and other radiation protection measures would be used.
3.) The third launch (Stack Three) would carry another Clipper and larger crew, but on this launch the second ET hydrogen tank (the previous lab-habitat) would only carry extra hydrogen/oxygen fuel to orbit, then dock with the other two. The extra fuel would be transferred to the large, previously fueled ET from the Stack Two launch, which would still have its engines and command and control unit attached. The fuel would fill less than half of this larger ET, but that would be enough.
4.) Stack Two would then detach itself from the stack cluster, fire its SSME engines, and begin an unmanned flight to lunar orbit with a Lunar Clipper attached. The flights purpose would be to test the stacks command and control equipment on this trajectory, and monitor the labs interior radiation readings. It would orbit the Moon several times, then return to LEO and dock with the stack cluster.
5.) This test could be conducted in a single lunar flight, or a series of arcing flights traveling further and further from the Earth. This second option would require additional Stack Three fuel flights from Earth. In all cases the Stack Three components would remain in LEO, attached to the growing stack cluster.
6.) On the next Stack Two Lunar orbital flight, either manned or unmanned, the Clipper would separate, descend to the Moon, perhaps acquire Lunar samples, launch from the Moon, dock with the Stack Two lab and partially fueled ET/engine/control section in Lunar orbit, return to LEO and re-dock with the stack cluster. Scientists and technicians in the Stack One lab could analyze the samples and vehicle hardware.
7.) On the next Stack Two Lunar flight the Clipper and the lunar lab habitat would both separate in lunar orbit. The lab habitat, with small, hydrogen/oxygen retro rockets attached as it was built on Earth, would land on the Moon while the Clipper and the larger ET/SSME cluster remained in orbit. The landing site would be the edge of the Lunar Pole craters, which apparently contain water ice.
8.) After a few hours or days, the lab habitat would launch itself from the Moons surface, return to lunar orbit and dock with the larger ET/SSME section. The Clipper would then attach itself to this stack and return to LEO for post-flight inspection.
At the end of this test sequence the program would have the following capabilities.
Another variation of the shorter (hydrogen) lab-tank would have connection ports built at its upper and lower end before launch. It wouldnt carry a Clipper. Both ports could be covered with a cowling during launch, which would be the domed section from the bottom of a standard ET hydrogen tank and the nose of an oxygen tank.
Once in LEO these sections would separate from their carrier ET/SSME four or more of them would dock together (at their connection ports) into a straight line using the same small engines and onboard guidance systems use for lunar landings. After the connections were secure and life support systems were activated and checked, the engines would fire and place the structure into a slow, propeller-like spin.
The structures interior would have zero-gravity at the hub to perhaps .5 g at the tips. A central docking connector at the hub would be built on Earth and carried up mounted on the side of a standard External Tank/Space Shuttle Main Engines/Solid Rocket Booster stack. It would have lateral docking ports allowing Clippers carrying supplies or personnel to come and go as needed.
In LEO this rotating structure could offer crews the opportunity to experiment with plants, animals and equipment under Lunar and Martian gravity-levels. Its rotation would make large-scale hydroponics possible for onboard food production, and for biological, closed loop air and water recycling.
In time the entire structure, with the extra radiation protection used on the Lunar labs, could be launched to Mars. It would offer its crew a partial-gravity, self-contained facility that would address the major health issues of manned Martian exploration.
All these capabilities would come from minor variations of the vehicle stack depicted at: www.spaceislandgroup.com/dual-launch.html .
Commercial and Government Cost Estimates
We estimate that a team patterned after the one Delta Clipper Team could design, build and flight test the first 2 launch vehicles for us in 4-5 years for $5-$7 billion if we used commercial purchasing procedures. Traditional NASA procedures might double cost, and add a couple of years to the timeline. The Air Force would likely want a variation for their use.
Over the next 20-25 years NASA and the Air Force might need a half dozen or so Clippers at several hundred million each, and 4-5 dozen launches at another few hundred million each. (If the side-mounted hydrogen tank were filled with cargo or fuel the launch might cost $200 million. If filled with lab and life support equipment it would cost 2 or 3 times as much.) The whole Earth/Lunar Clipper program could cost the taxpayers over $50 billion by 2020, if public and federal support for manned exploration sustains itself to a higher degree than it did with Apollo, the shuttles and the ISS.
For the next 2 decades Congress and the public will ask. What are we getting for all these billions? An answer of science hasnt worked well in the past, its not working well today, and it likely wont work much better in the future. But if NASA required that companies bidding on the CEV and on the Moon/Mars project in general also had to find commercial markets for these vehicles, the answer would be very different.
Space Island Commercial Revenues Will Supplement NASA
The Space Island Group is developing commercial markets for this stack that will require far more launches and Clippers than NASA will alone. Even at this early stage, weve identified markets needing dozens of Clippers and literally hundreds of ETs assembled into several configurations in LEO. (Well leave the Moon and Mars to NASA.) Solar power satellites are one of the largest markets, but there are many others. By the middle of the next decade we could be buying $10 billion worth of this space hardware annually. That number will double by 2020, dwarfing NASAs needs.
This parallel commercial market will dramatically cut the per unit cost of NASAs hardware. The increased aerospace jobs and the new, space-based American industries made possible by our approach will result in very broad public and congressional support.
We dont believe that a defense contractor can develop this commercial market for space hardware as aggressively as we can. Boeing couldnt run an airline, and Delta or FedEx couldnt build the planes. But by working together, both benefit.
In similar way, the Space Island Group could work with major aerospace firms on this project. Many of the technologies tested by Lockheeds X-33 could be used on Lunar Clippers, as could some of their military aircraft sub-systems. A consortium could be formed between Lockheed, ATK (for the SRBs) and United Technologies Prattt & Whitney Division. Pratt &Whitney supplied the RL-10s engines for the original Clipper tests, and theyre buying Boeings Rocketdyne division. United Technologies other divisions have experience in designing spacesuits and life support systems. SpaceHab Corporation could also assist in the design the ET- lab elements. The Space Island Group could become a bigger customer for this hardware than NASA in less than a decade.
Space Islands Unique Approach to Funding
Were keenly aware of the failed, commercial ET attempts of the past. Previous business models by other Space Companies assumed their revenues would come from government agencies. Both relied exclusively on NASAs shuttles to support commercial research activities onboard ET-habitats, at discounted rates far below the shuttles actual launch costs. Former NASA Administrators Dan Goldin and Sean OKeefe never supported this subsidized approach, which competed with their Freedom/ISS program.
Todays private space efforts rely on a few tens of millions in venture capital to fund new launch technologies. They assume that defense contractor hardware is wildly overpriced and inefficient. Their target markets, sub-orbital tourism or small Low Earth Orbit satellites, are very limited, and their risks of early failure with unproven hardware is high.
The Space Island Group takes a very different approach. Our revenues will come from private, non-aerospace and non-government firms leasing our facilities for a wide range of uses. We are not seeking venture capital. We know our effort will require billions of dollars, rather than just tens of millions.
Another section of our website, www.spaceislandgroup.com/solarsat.html , explains how our project will make solar power satellites economically feasible. It outlines how solar satellites will save insurance companies tens of billions of dollars annually, and play a major role in the $3 trillion/year fossil fuel energy market. Weve also been in detailed discussions with multi-billion dollar segments of the medical, pharmaceutical and entertainment industries.
The U.S. Department of State is reviewing how our solar satellites could offer India and China a new American energy source in a decade or so, reducing both those countries reliance on Iranian oil. China alone could fund our entire project with a contract to buy power from our solar satellites in a decade or so. Two major American energy companies are reviewing all the available literature on solar satellites, and the economics of our approach.
Legislators from both parties are enthusiastic about our approach, in part because were not asking for federal funds. When the shuttles are retired, our project will sustain - and dramatically increase - employment in congressional districts building shuttle components. We could even offer a few design contracts to NASA centers, winning the support of other legislators concerned by possible NASA layoffs.
Observers of these industries and of these two energy-starved nations believe that if we mount an aggressive, high-end promotional campaign, we can attract several hundred million dollars from their marketing and PR budgets. Wed sign exclusive exploratory agreements with them, letting the international media portray them as leading the world toward these futuristic space opportunities.
Wed like to use these early revenues to fund design studies in conjunction with NASAs CEV studies. The revenues will let us escalate our marketing effort, leading to advance lease agreements from our first ET-station tenants. Banks have already told us that theyll arrange ET-station construction loans for us based on projected multi-billion dollar lease agreements.
We expect our funding levels to match or exceed NASAs funding from 2007 forward, letting us finance our propeller-like, rotating ET-station on our own. We could then lease a portion of it to NASA at very attractive rates. This approach directly supports NASA and the Presidents vision of private industry helping to lower the cost of the Moon/Mars Initiative.
That, in a rather large nutshell, is our plan.
The overlap between our goals and NASAs has steadily grown since President Bush announced his Moon/Mars Initiative and his intention to retire the Space Shuttle fleet by 2010. The President has also called for greater private sector involvement in meeting NASAs needs.
Were looking forward to providing that involvement.
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