Category Archives: Space Settlement

Space settlement roundup – Aug.5.2020

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[1] 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:

Infographic for the iSpace HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander. Click for enlarged view. Credits: ispace

** 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 –

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.

See also:

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:

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 CometsCold 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.

Comet Interceptor program website:
Comet Interceptor program Wikipedia page:…

** 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:…

** Some recent episodes of The Space Show that dealt with space settlement:

**** Aug.4.2020John Strickland talked about terraforming Mars possible technology, returning to the Moon, and other topics.

**** July 24, 2020Steven Wolfe discussed space settlement and the formation of the  new organization, The Beyond Earth Institute, to pursue space settlement goals.

**** June 12, 2020Robert Jacobson talked about his new book, Space Is Open For Business, and the topics focused on in the book: space commerce, NewSpace, policy, returning to the Moon and more.

**** May.2.2020Dr. 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 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.


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2020 Lunar Development Conference – July 19-20, 2020 – online

2020 Lunar Development Conference is a two day all-virtual event sponsored by The Moon Society on July 19 – 20, 2020. It will feature prominent speakers, panels, and networking between attendees using a new virtual platform.

Registration for non-members is just $10.

Confirmed speakers include:

There will be a proceedings publication released by Luna City Press – publishing imprint for The Moon Society.

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Space settlement roundup – May.13.2020

A  sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings):

** NIAC grant for Aqua Factorem, an Ultra Low-Energy Lunar Water Extraction system. This approach, briefly mentioned in an earlier roundup, takes

advantage of the processing that the unique lunar geology has already performed. Micrometeoroid bombardment has already broken most solid material in the upper part of the regolith into fine grains. This includes solid material of all compositions, including the ice, which is as hard as granite at PSR [Permanently Shadowed Regions] temperatures and is therefore essentially another type of rock. These ice grains are intermixed with all the other minerals, so a simple, ultra-low-energy grain-sorting process can extract the ice without phase change.

As another benefit it can extract the 1 wt% free metal known to be in lunar soil, again with very little energy. The ice can then be hauled to the chemical processing unit in solid phase and converted into rocket propellant. We estimate the 800 kW power needed for thermal extraction can be reduced to less than 100 watts using the new method. This affects the entire architecture of the mining operation producing extensive economic benefit, which we will quantify in this study.

We will study it in the context of a mission to mine propellants commercially for space tugs that boost commercial communication satellites from Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) to Geostationary Orbit (GEO) then return to the lunar surface for refueling. This simple architecture requires the minimum number of in-space elements, and notably does not require an in-space propellant depot, so it provides the lowest cost and lowest risk startup for a commercial operation. The study will also test the innovative Aqua Factorem process through laboratory experiments, and this will produce basic insights into the handling of lunar resources.

“Graphic depicting the Aqua Factorem: Ultra Low-Energy Lunar Water Extraction concept.” Credits: Philip Metzger

See also

** Lots more articles on lunar mining and settlements:

** Space Settlement Progress – “Cutting edge technology enabling settlement of the final frontier” – John Jossy writes on a wide range of space settlement related topics. A sampling of recent postings:

** AIAA whitepaper offers recommendations on development of in-space infrastructure:

Executive summary:

Expanding our economic sphere beyond Earth will bring humanity greater prosperity and security. A space-based economy has already taken root. There are hundreds of communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit, the Global Positioning System has made terrestrial navigation with cell phones commonplace, weather satellites warn us of approaching hurricanes, wealthy tourists are paying for space adventures, and the International Space Station has welcomed numerous commercial initiatives. The prospects for further economic expansion into space seem full of promise with plans to send human exploration missions beyond Earth orbit to open new frontiers.

To enable this process we start by asking a few fundamental questions: Why should we try to stimulate this economic expansion? What are the benefits to society? What steps can best facilitate it?

By drawing on parallels from history, we argue that enabling in-space infrastructure will stimulate economic expansion and generate significant benefits to people on Earth. In-space infrastructure would consist of the systems and services operating in Earth’s neighborhood to facilitate commerce, exploration, and scientific discovery. We postulate that there is an immediate need for at least a “critical mass” of in-space infrastructure to be planned, funded, and implemented to expedite broader, efficient, and easy access to cislunar space for all interested stakeholders/participants, and lay the foundation of a vibrant space-based economy.

Since a fully developed space economy will have worldwide significance and impact, we further suggest that a global advocacy for development of an in-space infrastructure should be initiated

Statement of attribution:

This paper was written in 2018, submitted to AIAA for review in January 2020, and approved by the AIAA Public Policy Committee in January 2020. The AIAA Space Exploration Integration Committee (SEIC) members are nationally and internationally renowned aerospace professionals with expertise in one or more space exploration-related disciplines. The SEIC also recruits students and young professionals who desire to serve the aerospace community at large and to become valuable assets to the community. This statement reflects the views and opinions of SEIC members and is not necessarily a position of AIAA at large.

** Check out the latest newsletter from The Space Resource, “an independent media platform dedicated to building an interactive community of space resources enthusiasts and professionals”.  The Space Resource Newsletter – April 2020 — The Space Resource.

Sampling of topics covered:

  • Synthetic asteroid under development for future in-space test.
  • US executive order signed that promotes utilization of space resources
  • NASA Lunar Flashlight to peer into lunar PSRs.
  • NASA accepting PRISM Request for Information (RFI) for future lunar missions.

** Nicole Shumaker – Research Synergy for Lunar Construction Methods at Texas A&M – CSP S02E30

Nicole Shumaker, Research Specialist at Texas A&M, is in a unique role focusing on identifying opportunities for and developing synthesis in lunar construction methods. What gaps are there in the field between research, institutions, business and government? That’s the key question Nicole is continuously answering, bringing people together in lunar construction efforts who may otherwise have not known the other existed. Resulting from her effort is acceleration of research and technology development in lunar construction. Nicole meets with host Jason Kanigan on the Cold Star Project to discuss her work and developments in lunar construction methods. Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science (CLASS) website–see Programs and Seminars tab for recorded and upcoming lectures: NASA ISRU page:

** Speculation on the possibilities of settlements someday on the Galilean Moons of Jupiter: Viability of Colonizing the Galilean Moons | astrobites

… Developing a habitat on another celestial body is no simple task. With the challenges posed by long-duration space travel, the construction of habitats able to withstand extreme environments, and the physiological effects of living in a low gravity environment being of particular concern, the destination must be well worth the investment and struggles of the pioneering astronauts. Living within the influence of Jupiter has its own set of unique challenges stemming mostly from the intense radiation belts that result from the extreme magnetic field output by the gas giant. However, humans are adaptive and willing to take on challenges if nothing else. Instead of allowing these risks to turn us off to the idea of establishing permanent settlements on these moons, the unique features of Io, Ganymede, and Callisto should be analyzed through the lens of viability for inhabitation and their individual challenges viewed as exciting engineering problems to overcome.

** Daniel Faber – On The Way To A New Economy: Gas Stations In Space – Cold Star Project S02E36

Past Deep Space Industries CEO Daniel Faber today runs a company called OrbitFab. As a pioneer of space mining and resources development, what is Dan doing now? Kickstarting the next massive new space economy by creating “Gas stations in space”, that’s what!

** SpaceX Starships could enable space settlement in a shorter time than even many space enthusiasts thought possible. By far, the greatest hurdle to the expansion of humanity into the solar system is the extremely high cost of launching people and materials from the Earth’s surface into orbit. If the Starship/Super Heavy Booster vehicles fulfill the goals of SpaceX, this hurdle will finally be surmounted:

See the recent Space Transport Roundup that describes NASA’s selection of SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics to carry out studies of human lunar lander systems. SpaceX’s entry is based on a Starship customized for lunar operations.

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. Credits: SpaceX

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Space settlement roundup – April.15.2020

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings):

** NASA hang-out examined the role of civil engineering in developing the initial landing site on Mars: Paving the Road to Mars: Civil Engineering at the Human Landing Site – Feb.2020

Speakers from Bechtel, Kennedy Space Center, Langley Research Center, and NASA Headquarters join HLS2 steering committee co-chairs Paul Niles and Richard (Rick) Davis to discuss the use of Civil Engineering on Mars.

Speakers include:

• Pete Carrato (Bechtel, Fellow Emeritus)
• Rob Mueller (Swamp Works Kennedy Space Center, Senior Technologist/Primary Investigator)
• Michelle Munk (Langley Research Center, EDL System Capability Lead)

Here are the slides: Human Landing Site Hangout – Paving the Road to Mars: Civil Engineering at the Human Landing Site – NASA – Feb.27.2020 (pdf).

** More about building roads and structures on Mars from civil engineer Peter Carrato, who participated in the above hangout, in this recent Planetary Society Radio program: Building Our Future on Mars | The Planetary Society

How will we build the structures, roads and landing pads humans will someday need on Mars? Civil engineer Peter Carrato has been building grand structures on Earth for decades. He says the skills we’ve learned over thousands of years are well-suited for the much more challenging Martian environment.

**  A model for a Martian settlement: Why a business case for Mars settlement is not required – The Space Review

Some people have claimed that a “business case” for profitable interplanetary trade with a Mars settlement, or at least the identification a saleable product for trade, is required before such a settlement can be established or supported by business or government. But there is no reasonable prospect for trade in any significant mass of physical material from a Mars settlement back to Earth in the near future due to the high transport costs. In his recent article in the National Review, “Elon Musk’s Plan to Settle Mars,” Robert Zubrin makes exactly the same point: a business case based on physical trade is not necessary and makes little sense. Later trade and commerce via non-physical goods such as software is probable once a settlement is fully operational. More significant and interesting economic situations will occur on Mars.

A good model for the expenditures needed to found colonies is the Greek and Phoenician expansion all across the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas in the period early in Greek history (before about 600 BC), leading to the founding of one of the greatest trading cities in history, Carthage. The cities who founded each colony did not expect immediate profit, but wanted good places for an expanding population and knew that, once the new cities were established, trade would also become established. Most of the cost was probably in building more ships. When European colonies were first established in the New World by Spain and Portugal, the emphasis was initially on a search for treasure, not production of products. English and Dutch colonies later led the way to commerce across the Atlantic, with tobacco, sugar, and cotton suddenly becoming a major part of world trade.

A look at some of the steps required to create a Mars settlement will help us understand at least a little about Mars settlement economics. For a Mars settlement, motivation and economics are interwoven. It is possible for at least a partial business case to be made for the transport of settlers and the materials they will need to initiate some phase of Mars settlement. This includes the current effort to create a large number of reliable, low cost, and reusable super-heavy boosters and spacecraft, able to take payloads of 100 tons or more of cargo and passengers to Mars and land them at the right location. Part of this development and construction cost will be defrayed by commercial and government uses of the same vehicles, such as placing very heavy payloads in LEO and taking equipment and passengers to and around the Moon.

** A design for a first-generation in-space habitat settlement affordable at launch costs of $300/kg is proposed by Pekka Janhunen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki.:  Shielded Dumbbell L5 Settlement: New in the NSS Space Settlement Journal – National Space Society

We present a two-sphere dumbbell configuration of a rotating settlement at Earth-Moon L5. The two-sphere configuration is chosen to minimize the radiation shielding mass which dominates the mass budget. The settlement has max 20 mSv/year radiation conditions and 1 g artificial gravity. If made for 200 people, it weighs 89000 tonnes and provides 60 square meters of floor space per person.

The radiation shield is made of asteroid rock, augmented by a water layer with 2% of the mass for neutron moderation, and a thin boron-10 layer for capturing the thermalized neutrons. We analyze the propulsion options for moving the material from asteroids to L5. The FFC Cambridge process can be used to extract oxygen from asteroid regolith. The oxygen is then used as Electric Propulsion propellant. One can also find a water-bearing asteroid and use water for the same purpose. If one wants to avoid propellant extraction, one can use a fleet of electric sails. The settlers fund their project by producing and selling new settlements by zero-delay teleoperation in the nearby robotic factory which they own.

The economic case looks promising if LEO launch costs drop below about $300/kg.

I’ll note that SpaceX‘s Starship is aimed at achieving launch costs even below the $300/kg range at high flight rates.

A schematic diagram of the dumbbell design of a large space habitat. Credits: Pekka Janhunen via NSS

The full paper – Shielded Dumbbell L5 Settlement – NSS Space Settlement Journal (pdf) – and other reports are available at the NSS Space Settlement Journal website.

* Gateway Foundation releases an update on the design of a first-generation large scale space habitat, which they now call Voyager Station. This video discusses how the development of the SpaceX Starship could benefit the project.

** Overview of the 2019 Mining Space Summit held in Luxembourg: White Paper Focuses On ‘Major Takeaways’ From The 2019 Mining Space Summit – SpaceWatch.Global

The experts agreed that collaboration between terrestrial mining and commercial space will be crucial to the development technology and mission capabilities needed for a viable space resources industry.

Suggestions which might help jump start the collaboration process included a global competition based on the Google Lunar XPRIZE model and the development of ‘dual use’ Earth/space technologies.

Demand for space resources could potentially be driven by offworld outposts, space laboratories, Moon-based facilities and space tourism.

However, early development will require support from governments around the world, with sound legal agreements on ownership of resources and stable markets to sell them.

Governments and their agencies will also play a central role as the primary source of demand for this fledgling market.

The white paper Major Takeaways of the Mining Space Summit 2019 – Luxembourg Space Agency (pdf)

The second Mining Space Summit was a great success, as was the whole Space Resources Week. By attracting more representatives from the terrestrial resources industry, it represents an important step forward towards establishing a meaningful connection between two industrial sectors, terrestrial resources and space resources.

With the attendance of more than 180 experts, we had a significant increase of participants, only limited by the size of the breakout session groups. One important metric was the participant representation -58% from space, including start-ups and global players, and 42% from mining, oil and gas industries, finance,and (non-space) government sectors.

The Summit focused on two challenges that are key in enabling the success of the space resources sector: the viability of their business models and the development of critical technologies and operations.

This summary paper has provided the major results of the discussions, and will help to set the foundation for future work.

The 2019summit was only an intermediate step of a long-term process to identify areas of collaboration between the two industrial sectors.Space Resources Week2020, announced at the end of the ESA ISRU Workshop, will happen between the 5thand 9thOctoberandwill build on these results.

** TransAstra wins a NIAC grant for development of lunar propellant mining architecture: Lunar Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO) | NASA

The Lunar Polar Mining Outpost (LPMO) (see quad chart graphic) is a breakthrough mission architecture that promises to greatly reduce the cost of human exploration and industrialization of the Moon. LPMO is based on two patent pending inventions that together solve the problem of affordable lunar polar ice mining for propellant production.

“Graphic depiction of the Lunar Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO) concept.” Credits: Joel Sercel [Click for large image]

The first invention, Sun Flower™ stems from a new insight into lunar topography. We have found multi kilometer landing areas in lunar polar regions on which the surface is likely ice rich regolith in perpetual darkness but with perpetual sunlight available at altitudes of only 100s of meters. In these landing sites, which we found and mapped in our Phase 1 study, deployable reflectors on towers a few hundred meters tall (lightweight and feasible in lunar gravity) can provide nearly continuous solar power.

A large lander, such as the Blue Moon vehicle proposed by Blue Origin or lunar ice mining outpost can sit on mineable ice at ground level in perpetual sunlight provided by lightweight reflectors. A single New Glenn launch can deliver a Sun Flower with over 1 MW of solar arrays, tower, and reflector in an integrated package.

The second enabling innovation for LGMO is Radiant Gas Dynamic (RGD) mining. RGD mining is a new Patent Pending technology invented by TransAstra to solve the problem of economically and reliably prospecting and extracting large quantities (1,000s of tons per year) of volatile materials from lunar regolith using landed packages of just a few tons each….

** Several other NIAC awards went to technology projects relevant to space settlement. For example,

  • Fueling a Human Mission to Mars – Caroline Genzale (Georgia Tech Research Corporation):  Development of “a renewable, liquid, storage stable rocket propellant that can be produced and burned on Mars using bioorganisms to perform atmospheric in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). Utilizing 100% ISRU for propellant production, we aim to reduce the Entry Descent Landing (EDL) mass of a crewed mission to Mars by approximately 7 tons. This technology will enable long-term human presence on Mars and beyond because costly propellant deliveries from Earth would be unnecessary. We will genetically engineer organisms to efficiently convert the abundant CO2 in the Martian atmosphere into liquid hydrocarbons suitable for rocket propulsion and other energy needs on Mars.
  • Aqua Factorem: Ultra Low-Energy Lunar Water Extraction – Philip Metzger (University of Central Florida) – To extract water from lunar polar crater floors, this proposal takes “advantage of the processing that the unique lunar geology has already performed. Micrometeoroid bombardment has already broken most solid material in the upper part of the regolith into fine grains. This includes solid material of all compositions, including the ice, which is as hard as granite at PSR temperatures and is therefore essentially another type of rock. These ice grains are intermixed with all the other minerals, so a simple, ultra-low-energy grain-sorting process can extract the ice without phase change. As another benefit it can extract the 1 wt% free metal known to be in lunar soil, again with very little energy. The ice can then be hauled to the chemical processing unit in solid phase and converted into rocket propellant. We estimate the 800 kW power needed for thermal extraction can be reduced to less than 100 watts using the new method. This affects the entire architecture of the mining operation producing extensive economic benefit, which we will quantify in this study.
  • Instant Landing Pads for Artemis Lunar Missions – Matthew Kuhns (Masten Space Systems) – “The Masten in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique (FAST) Landing Pad changes the approach to landing on planetary bodies by mitigating the landing plume effects by creating a landing pad under the lander as it descends onto a surface. This approach uses engineered particles injected into the rocket plume to build up a coating over the regolith at the landing location. The hardened regolith would have greater thermal resistance and ablation resistance to reduce regolith erosion rates and deep cratering. This innovation would enable large and small landers to safely perform transportation to any region on the Moon without major risks posed by engine plume effects.

** Commercial lunar projects by Intuitive Machines and Masten Space receive support from NASA. In 2019, IM was among the first set of companies selected by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative to carry payloads to the Moon. This week IM announced the launch date for their Nova-C lander and the site where it will touch down: Launch Date and Landing Site Selected For 2021 Moon Mission – Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines (IM) engineers selected an area in Oceanus Procellarum near Vallis Schröterias the landing site for its upcoming IM-1 lunar mission with an anticipated launch date in October 2021.

Vallis Schröteri, also known as Schröter’s Valley, is the largest valley on the Moon (comparable in size to the Grand Canyon) and is surrounded by Oceanus Procellarum, the largest lunar maria on the Moon. Oceanus Procellarum, also called the Ocean of Storms, covers over 10 percent of the entire Moon and has a diverse array of geological features. NASA considered a site near Vallis Schröteri for Apollo 18; now, IM is taking up the baton to conduct the initial survey.

Nova-C, the first lander wholly developed by a private company, will deliver commercial cargo and five NASA-provided payloads to the lunar surface. These payloads will conduct scientific research and technology demonstrations as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, in preparation for sending astronauts back to the Moon in 2024.

Intuitive Machine’s Nova-C lunar lander. Credits: Intuitive Machines

Last week, NASA announced the selection of Masten Space (see post here) to

deliver and operate eight payloads – with nine science and technology instruments – to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024.

The payloads, which include instruments to assess the composition of the lunar surface, test precision landing technologies, and evaluate the radiation on the Moon, are being delivered under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative as part of the agency’s Artemis program.

Masten’s XL-1 lander will incorporate lessons and technologies derived from the company’s long experience with vertical takeoff and landing rockets. In addition to the NASA payloads, Masten expects to carry payloads from commercial customers.

Scott Manley gives a video report on Masten and the company’s lander:

Find more about the two projects at NOVA-C selects landing site, Masten gains CLPS contracts –

** Xplore awarded USAF grant to study ways to provide navigation services to the cislunar domain, i.e. from Earth to the Moon. Such systems would be similar to the invaluable GPS system used for a wide range of navigation and timing applications on earth: Xplore Receives USAF Award for Innovative Commercial Capabilities Around the Moon – Xplore

Xplore Inc., a commercial space company has announced they have won an Air Force award to study positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) solutions for cislunar space. The award category, for commercial and technical innovations between the Earth and the Moon — is entirely new for the Air Force, which is investigating the capabilities necessary to extend operations beyond geosynchronous orbit to now include cislunar space.

The Xplore plan would involve the company’s Xcraft, a standardized spacecraft platform that can be implemented for a variety of deep space missions:

Navigation considerations have been an integral part of Xplore’s development strategy since the company started rigorously developing its platform and multi-mission Xcraft™ — an ESPA-class space vehicle that will fly missions at destinations from Earth to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange points, near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) and other locations across the inner solar system. Beyond the more obvious hardware requirements for operating in extreme environments, Xplore will maximize the full value of its orbital assets by designing a PNT architecture that mirrors the accessibility and reliability of GPS for cislunar space. The Xcraft’s ability to operate across these vast distances provides tremendous value to customers in academia, industry, civil space and national security agencies.

An Xcraft at the Moon. Credits: Xplore

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Space settlement roundup – Mar.26.2020

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings):

** Joel Sercel – Mini Bee Prototype for Asteroid Mining – Cold Star Project S02E09 –

The Mini Bee asteroid mining craft prototype is the topic of this episode of the Cold Star Project, and Dr. Joel Sercel is our guest. Momentus Space and TransAstra are teaming up with a NASA NIAC grant and other investors to prove the concept of this new asteroid mining technology. Dr. Sercel has considerable experience in the space field, having designed JPL’s space project process. We cover:

– tradeoffs in vehicle design of the Mini Bee -process for Mini Bee proof of concept

– “process maturity” concept for Air Force projects he lead -biggest surprise in his JPL experience

– smallsat market predictions.

Mini Bee project info on NASA site:…

A NIAC infographic about the Mini Bee and optical mining concept:

Mini Bee optical mining system for extracting resources from asteroid and lunar material. Credits: Transastra Corp. & NIAC

** TransAstra’s Sun Flower solar powered module would enable extraction of water from permanently shadowed lunar craters at the poles:  TransAstra lunar outpost concept – Joel Sercel on LinkedIn

NASA has funded TransAstra to find a way to make a lunar outpost. Our system can evolve into a tourist destination and then grow into a city. The problem we had to overcome is that with today’s rocket technology launching just a single gallon of water to the Moon could cost upwards of $10M. Lunar outposts will need thousands of tons of water every year to drink, as a source of oxygen for air, and most importantly for rocket propellant. The best rocket propellant is made by breaking water into oxygen and hydrogen and liquifying the resulting gases at ultra low temperatures. Getting the water and turning it into rocket propellant will require megawatts of electric power. Solar arrays are not an option because the permanently shadowed regions that are expected to be loaded with ice haven’t seen the light of the Sun for billions of years.

Our new patent pending invention, the Sun Flower™ solves that problem. Sun Flower flies to the Moon as a single modular spacecraft and soft lands itself on the icy surface. With its landing legs stabilized on the icy lunar surface the tower grows vertically out of a modest package until the top of the tower is in the sun.

** ESA’s PROSPECT will extract materials from the crater floors of the Moon’s South Pole and look for water. The package will launch in 2025 as a payload on Russia’s Luna-27 lander: Hunting out water on the Moon – ESA

The overall payload is called Package for Resource Observation and in-Situ Prospecting for Exploration, Commercial exploitation and Transportation, or PROSPECT. A drill called ProSEED will extract samples, expected to contain water ice and other chemicals that can become trapped at the extremely low temperatures expected; typically -150 °C beneath the surface to lower than -200 °C in some areas. 

Samples taken by the drill will then be passed to the ProSPA chemical laboratory, being developed by an Open University team. These samples will then be heated to extract these cold-trapped volatiles and enable follow-up analysis.

ESA posts this “map of possible water beneath the surface of the Moon’s South Pole, based on temperature data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter”.

** Christopher Dreyer – Space Resources Program at the Colorado School of Mines – CSP S02E22

Dr. Christopher Dreyer is the Associate Director of Engineering and co-creator of the Center for Space Resources at Colorado School of Mines. The School offers an exciting Space Resources Program and Dr. Dreyer has played an integral role in developing it. Chris meets with Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan to discuss the Program. We cover:

– how Chris got involved with the idea of asteroid mining

– the way one creates a curriculum for something that hasn’t existed before

– why the School decided to go with an online program format instead of in-class

– exactly what is taught in a course Dr. Dreyer developed for the program, such as Space Resources Fundamentals

– what if any relevance Earth-based capabilities and experience the Colorado School of Mines developed has for asteroid mining

– technologies available and being developed to prospect for and process resources in space

– how close or far away Dr. Dreyer believes we are to actual asteroid mining.

One of the first things I noticed on Dr. Dreyer’s LinkedIn profile was a recommendation from Dr. Joel Sercel, also a guest on this show. Dr. Sercel’s Momentus firm and Dr. Dreyer’s School do have a relationship and we discuss that in this episode. Dr. Sercel’s appearance is here:…

Space Resources Program:

** Elon Musk aims for a fleet of a 1000 Starships to transport thousands of people and thousands of tons of cargo every two years to Mars to build and maintain a permanent settlement until it can become self-sustaining.

Musk tweeted in January that the goal of his Starship transportation system to Mars will be to launch each of SpaceX’s reusable Starship rockets about three times per day, on average, while carrying a 100-ton payload on each flight. with roughly 1,000 flights per year carrying more than 100 tons of cargo on each flight. At that rate, Musk theorizes, each Starship rocket would make roughly 1,000 flights per year, launching a total of 100,000 tons of cargo into orbit.

“So, every 10 ships yield 1 megaton per year to orbit,” Musk also tweeted in January.

And 1,000 Starships could send “maybe around 100k people per Earth-Mars orbital sync,” Musk added on Twitter, referring to the period, every 26 months, when Earth’s and Mars’ orbits are best aligned for an interplanetary journey. “That’s the goal.”

Starships at a Mars settlement. Credits: SpaceX

** Bloomberg posted a series of videos last fall on various aspects of large scale space development such as space factories and  living in space. The full series will play out if you start with this one:

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