Here is a sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings). This roundup is particularly focused on items related to commercial involvement in lunar development.
** 2020 Lunar Development Conference presentation videos are now available online.
The 2020 Lunar Development Conference was organized as an all-virtual event on July 19th and 20th, 2020 and featured prominent government, business, academic and advocacy speakers covering topics across the entire range of lunar science, development and settlement.
The 43 videos at YouTube include talks by Robert Zubrin, Greg Autry, Rick Tumlinson, and many others. Here is a keynote from Sean Mahoney, CEO of Masten Space Systems, which has a NASA contract to put a lander on the Moon by the end of 2022:
** Japan’s ispace gives an update on the HAKUTO-R lunar lander development: The design of the lander for the first iSpace mission to the Moon has been finalized. However, the launch is now set for 2022 rather than 2021 Commercial Lunar Exploration Program “HAKUTO-R” Reveals Final Design and Plan for ‘Mission 1’ Lunar Lander – ispace
Assembly of the lander will begin in Japan in 2021 at a JAL Engineering Co., Ltd. facility in Narita, Japan. Final assembly, integration, and testing (AIT) activities for the lander will be carried out by ArianeGroup GmbH at its facilities in Lampoldhausen, Germany. After assembly and final testing in Germany, the lander will be delivered to Cape Canaveral in the United States for its launch.
The target launch date of 2021, announced in September 2018 following the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) phase, has been adjusted to 2022 in response to technical issues which arose in recent months. The new target launch date was chosen in order to ensure higher reliability for HAKUTO-R customers and overall mission success. The lander is still planned to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
They also released a detailed infographic:
** An update on Astrobotic‘s lunar lander plans: Episode T+166: Laura Klicker and Daniel Gillies, Astrobotic – Main Engine Cut Off
Two members of the Astrobotic team join me for a conversation: Laura Klicker, Payload Systems Management Lead, and Daniel Gillies, Mission Director for the Griffin/VIPER mission. We talk about Astrobotic’s first Peregrine mission coming up next year, the very exciting VIPER mission to the south pole of the Moon in 2023, payload management across multiple flights, the technical aspects of their various vehicles, and a whole lot more.
Check out also the FISO Seminar given by Astrobotic VP Dan Hendrickson titled, Astrobotic: A Manifest of Delivery Missions to Make the Moon Accessible to the World. Here are the slides (pdf) to accompany his presentation.
** OHB of Germany and and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) partner on lunar lander mission: OHB and IAI plan commercial lunar lander mission in late 2022 – SpaceNews.com
German space company OHB is moving ahead with plans to launch a commercial lunar lander mission in cooperation with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in late 2022 as it looks for government and commercial customers.
OHB and IAI announced an agreement in January 2019 to cooperate on an initiative to deliver payloads to the lunar surface. Under that Lunar Surface Access Service (LSAS) program, OHB would serve as the prime contractor and handle payloads, while IAI provided a lander based on the design of SpaceIL’s Beresheet lander, which at time was approaching launch.
Beresheet failed to make a soft landing on the moon in April 2019 when the lander malfunctioned during its final descent to the lunar surface. However, the companies are pressing ahead with the program after making changes to the lander’s design.
- Fly me to the Moon!Israel Aerospace Industries and OHB investigate commercial lunar landing service – OHB
- Moon lander: Israel’s lunar lander & smallest spacecraft on the moon – IAI
IAI is also working with Firefly on lunar lander missions: Firefly Will Use Beresheet Lander Tech To Land On The Moon – Forbes
** Thermal Mining of Lunar Ices was presented in a FISO Seminar by George Sowers, former ULA chief scientist and now a professor at the Colorado School of Mines. These slides (pdf) accompany his talk:
** NASA’s plans for finding, extracting, and using lunar water are described by Leonard David: NASA’s Hunt for Lunar Water Intensifies – Scientific American
NASA’s Artemis program has been called ambitious for its goal of returning humans to Earth’s moon as early as 2024. But its most audacious aspiration is something else entirely: a plan to usher in an era of sustainable lunar operations by mining the moon’s reserves of water ice. Once tapped, this extraterrestrial reservoir could become the elixir of life to support human outposts, supplying not only drinking water but also oxygen and even rocket fuel.
** Rocket fuel is one application of lunar water: Here’s how we could mine the moon for rocket fuel | MIT Technology Review
The moon is a treasure trove of valuable resources. Gold, platinum, and many rare earth metals await extraction to be used in next-generation electronics. Non-radioactive helium-3 could one day power nuclear fusion reactors. But there’s one resource in particular that has excited scientists, rocket engineers, space agency officials, industry entrepreneurs—virtually anyone with a vested interest in making spaceflight to distant worlds more affordable. It’s water.
Why? If you split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and then liquefy those constituents, you have rocket fuel. If you can stop at the moon’s orbit or a lunar base to refuel, you no longer need to bring all your propellant with you as you take off, making your spacecraft significantly lighter and cheaper to launch. That’s important because Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational pull necessitate use of tons of fuel per second when rockets launch. Creating a sustainable source of fuel in space could reduce the costs and hazards associated with heavy liftoffs. One NASA estimate suggests there might be 600 million metric tons of lunar ice to harvest, and other higher-end estimates say one billion metric tons is a possibility.
In other words, if you could mine it effectively, the moon would become a cost-cutting interplanetary gas station for trips to Mars and elsewhere.
** Development of a viable cis-lunar economy will require a communications infrastructure. This could be a start: Commstar Space Communications™ Announces Its Intention to Deploy Next-Generation Hybrid Data Relay Satellite between the Earth and the Moon by 2023 – Commstar
Reston, VA, June 16, 2020: CommStar Space Communications™ LLC, (“CommStar Space”), announced its intention today to deploy an advanced, proprietary data relay satellite (“CommStar-1”) to be located between the Earth and the Moon by 2023. CommStar Space is also excited that its decision to deploy CommStar-1 is a major step by the private sector in accelerating the transition of the government out of building and operating taxpayer-funded communications infrastructure in favor of a new role as customer.
Serving as an advanced network access point located in the Cislunar service area, CommStar-1 will be capable of receiving and relaying both optical and radio frequency communications between the Moon and the Earth. CommStar-1 will provide active, “always on,” advanced data services over the more than 225,000-mile distance but will be situated closer to the Moon, i.e. 41632 miles. CommStar-1 relay infrastructure will be designed as a hybrid system for both radio frequency and optical (laser) communications. CommStar-1 will be a larger communications platform than anything currently contemplated to be located on the lunar surface or in orbit around the Moon, with significant space, weight, and power (“SWaP”) dedicated for enhanced relay data transmission. Customers of CommStar-1 can design their lunar payloads for higher speed connectivity and robust bandwidth capacity on their platforms whilst avoiding the critical trade-offs of costly “SWaP” dedicated solely for ultra-long-haul communications. These returned benefits will allow critical “Price per LB to Space” costs to be reallocated away from solely communications to more valuable tasks.
** Chinese team makes super strong basalt fiber from simulated lunar regolith materials: Chinese scientists say they’ve made a fibre that could be strong enough to build a moon base | South China Morning Post
A research team in western China says it has developed a material from artificial lunar dust that might be strong enough to build a base on the moon, and could potentially be made using volcanic rock on site.
Scientists at the Xinjiang Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry in Urumqi turned the artificial dust into a high-performance construction material called basalt fibre. Put through testing, they said it achieved a tensile strength of up to 1.4 gigapascals – or 1,400 megapascals.
To put that into perspective, a European Space Agency team in February used lunar dust and urea, a compound in urine, with a 3D-printed rod to make a construction material that could withstand 32 megapascals of pressure – about half the strength of some commercial concrete. And back in 1998, Nasa’s “waterless concrete” made from simulated moon dust broke apart when it was pulled at a force of 3.7 megapascals.
** Check out the latest issues of The Space Resource newsletter:
- The Space Resource Newsletter – May 2020
- The Space Resource Newsletter – June 2020
- The Space Resource Newsletter – July 2020
From the July issue, here is a description of the MOXIE system on the Perseverance rover, which launched last week. MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) will demonstrate production of oxygen from the C02 in the Martian atmosphere:
MOXIE to pave the way for future Martian oxygen production plants. As one of seven instruments on the NASA Perseverance rover, MOXIE will convert the abundant carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into valuable oxygen. 300 watts of electricity will be used to split the carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide, where the purity of oxygen output will be analyzed before being released back into the Martian atmosphere. While not utilized for this particular demonstration, oxygen production on Mars is required for human habitation, propellant production, and industrial processing.
MOXIE is one of the first dedicated in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) experiments to be tested on Mars, and the technology developed is already being utilized for larger follow-on systems. MOXIE is expected to generate six to ten grams of oxygen per hour, whereas 30 to 40 grams are the budget NASA sets for each astronaut on the International Space Station. Fueling a rocket will require kilograms of oxygen per hour, so larger scale systems with appropriate power systems will be required for sustained presence on Mars.
Here is also The Space Resource’s most recent annual review: The Space Resource Report: 2020.
** Joan-Pau Sanchez – Asteroid Mapping and Intercepting Comets – Cold Star Technologies – YouTube
Joan-Pau Sanchez, PhD, is a lecturer in space engineering at Cranfield University. He was one of the first to publish a Near Earth Orbit asteroid map. With host Jason Kanigan of the Cold Star Project, Dr. Sanchez discusses:
– what some of the “new rich families of exploitable orbits which may enable radically new mission applications and services” are
– his thoughts about the current alarm of “cluttered Earth orbit”, which we are moving towards with the planned launches of tens of thousands of smallsats
– what the “Traveling Salesperson Problem” is in ADR/servicing satellites
– how algorithms to solve such problems can be developed without the help of supercomputers
– his experience with the Comet Interceptor program and working with ESA
– the uses of his paper, “Optimal Sunshade Configurations for Space-Based Geoengineering near the Sun-Earth L1 Point”
– the project he lead, also covered by his student Florian Gautier in Episode 50, researching landing cubesats on an asteroid using the ZARM drop tower.
** United Space Structures aims to build structures on the Moon and Mars within underground lava tubes:
Our mission is to build a large self-sustaining facility that will house hundreds of people and to start construction by 2026. United Space Structures (USS) has developed a unique construction process for building very large permanent structures within lunar lava tubes. The advantage of building within lava tubes is that the lava tube provides protection from radiation and meteor strikes and so the habitat structure does not require to be hardened from these elements. The structures only need to create an atmospheric structurally stable enclosure that is thermally insulated.
** Gary Calnan – The Space Foundry Lab: A Cislunar Industrial Base – Cold Star Project S02E40
Gary Calnan, co-founder & CEO @ CisLunar Industries out of Denver CO, is on the Cold Star Project. They’re on a mission to create industrial capabilities in cislunar space that will enable sustainable space exploration and a permanent human presence beyond Earth. To make this a reality, their goal is to create the Space Foundry: the first in-space capability for recycling metal already in orbit and reprocessing it into refined raw materials for in-space manufacturing and construction. With host Jason Kanigan, Gary explores:
– at what point (or number) a “permanent human presence” beyond Earth exists
– what “industrial capabilities” he believes need to be developed first
– the purpose, elements and implementation plan of the Space Foundry
– his recent proposal to the ISS NL (“Electromagnetic Control and Manipulation of Liquid Metal in Micro-g”)
– what legal issues Gary foresees for capturing and recycling metal already in orbit
– what he believes it will take to reach a point of in-space manufacturing and construction
– whether the development of manufacturing and refueling capabilities on the moon impacts in-space efforts more or less than developing in-orbit capabilities.
Cislunar Industries on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/cisl…
** Some recent episodes of The Space Show that dealt with space settlement:
**** May.2.2020 – Dr. Pekka Janhunem discussed his papers on the design of large in-space habitats including, Shielded Dumbbell L5 Settlement – NSS Space Settlement Journal.
** The Habitat Marte in Brazil simulates a Martian base: Learning to Live Sustainably on the Red Planet: Habitat Mars – Universe Today
To do this, humanity needs to develop the necessary strategies for sustainable living in hostile environments and enclosed spaces. To prepare humans for this kind of experience, groups like Habitat Marte (Mars Habitat) and others are dedicated to conducting simulated missions in analog environments. The lessons learned will not only prepare people to live and work in space but foster ideas for sustainable living here on Earth.
Habitat Marte was founded in 2017 by Julio Francisco Dantas de Rezende, the professor of sustainability in the Department of Product Engineering at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) and the Director of Innovation with the State Foundation to Research Support (FAPERN). He is also the Coordinator of Habitat Marte and Mars Society Brazil.
Between December of 2017 and 2020, Habitat Marte has conducted 42 missions with more than 150 participants, totaling almost 1300 hours (98 days) of mission time. As Prof. Rezende indicated, these activities have generated large volumes of data that has resulted in a variety of scientific studies and publications.
** A look at using the local resources to support human missions on Mars:
Extending humanity to other worlds in the Solar System is at the very limits of our modern technology. And unless there are dramatic discoveries in new propulsion systems or we learn how to build everything out of carbon nanotubes, the future of space exploration is going to require living off the land. The technique is known as In-Situ Resource Utilization or ISRU, and it means supplying as much of your mission from local resources as possible. And many of our future exploration destinations, like Mars, have a lot to work with. Let’s look at the raw materials on Mars that missions can use to live off the land and the techniques and technologies that will need to be developed to make this possible.
** How many people are needed to sustain a Martian colony?
- The Bare Minimum Number of Martian Settlers? 110 – Universe Today
- Minimum Number of Settlers for Survival on Another Planet, J.-M. Salotti | Scientific Reports
…The use of in situ resources and different social organizations have been proposed [3–6,12–19] but there is still a poor understanding of the problem’s variables. I show here that a mathematical model can be used to determine the minimum number of settlers and the way of life for survival on another planet, using Mars as the example [6,15]. It is based on the comparison between the time requirements to implement all kinds of human activities for long term survival and the available time of the settlers. An important parameter of the model is called the sharing factor, which allows some reduction of time requirements per individual if, for example, the activity concerns the construction of an object that can be shared by several individuals…
** Check out the recent post here about the IGLUNA 2020 student space habitat design competition. The GrowBotHub project, for example, looked at building an entirely autonomous robotic system for space farming: Shoot(s) for the Moon! – EPFL
GrowBotHub, which recently became an EPFL-accredited association, is the school’s sole contribution to IGLUNA 2020. There are some thirty student members, most of them in Master’s programs. The team is pooling their knowledge from a variety of disciplines – such as robotics, chemistry, life sciences, data management, communication systems, microengineering, materials science and electrical engineering – to create an aeroponics system to grow and harvest vegetables without human intervention.
Aeroponics does not require soil. Instead, the plants’ roots are regularly sprayed with nutrient solutions. GrowBotHub’s robotic system intelligently calculates the variables based on each plant’s needs, including the composition and quantities of nutrients, pH, humidity, light and ambient temperature.
=== The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey ===