Category Archives: Space Settlement

National Space Society’s ISDC 2021 – virtual 4-day conference – opens June 24

The National Space Society‘s annual meeting – International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2021)–  starts today, June 24th as a virtual on-line event. The presentations on the first 3 days are available at no charge. An Interactive ISDC Sunday ($45) will bring “participants into contact with leading space experts in an interactive format. These discussions [will be] challenging and stimulating. : June 24-26 – free, June 27 – $45

The above graphic shows some of the Speakers.  Check out the elaborate Schedule of talks, panels, and debates.

From the NSS:

Please join us on Thursday-Sunday, June 24-27, for our multi-day virtual event, ISDC 2021. This exciting, four-day virtual event looks at the future of space exploration, development and settlement. And best of all, it’s entirely FREE for the first three days! Beginning at 12:00 PM EDT (9:00 AM PDT).

For complete information including a full schedule, go to

The International Space Development Conference® (ISDC®), will focus on key areas of space development: space settlement, space policy, space solar power, Moon, and international space programs and will include presentations by students from the Space Settlement Design Competition and the NSS Space Settlement Contest. ISDC 2021 will be a virtual event showcasing the technologies, people and organizations that will lead us to develop the final frontier!

ISDC 2021 presents the finest minds in this movement to develop space, with experts presenting the latest visions of humanity’s migration into space: where we will go, why we will go there, and how we will do so. Speakers include engineers and scientists working in new space; top minds from the aerospace and defense sectors; and educators, physicians, and investors focusing on the business and future of space travel, settlement, and exploration.

“The High Frontier” – A new documentary about Gerard K. O’Neill and space settlement

The  movie The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O’Neill will premier this Saturday, April 17th at 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT on You can register to watch it for free via eventbrite.

Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill was an American physicist, inventor, and space activist best known for writing the 1977 book, ​The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space.​

The book details how humans could build rotating space habitats in low-Earth orbit using a design he called the “O’Neill Cylinder.” The habitat could recreate Earth’s gravity and would house millions of people for work and play, eventually solving the major concerns facing Earth such as hunger, overpopulation, dwindling resources, and war. His book and activism launched the movement to the global stage, forever inspiring a generation of free thinkers and space leaders, altering the course of American space industry forever. Dr. O’Neill passed in 1992 from Leukemia, but his vision still lives on thanks to the “Gerry’s Kids,” those who were inspired by Dr. O’Neill and keep his vision alive today.

The High Frontier

is a documentary film about the life and influence of Gerard K. O’Neill told through the eyes of his peers, family and the younger generation he inspired during the 1970s and 80s who are now leaders in the modern day space race. Through old stories of “Gerry” as many called him, and the social impact he made on the world, this documentary pays tribute to the unsung hero of today’s space race, while hoping to inspire all ages and walks of life to reignite our planet’s space venturing spirit.

Here is the trailer:

The film will be available via VOD release on April 18th, 2021 on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Microsoft Stream, and Fandango. Details about the film can be found at The High Frontier: The Untold Story of Gerard K. O’Neill – IMDb.


The Space Studies Institute (SSI) was founded by O’Neill and the institute continues to support research and development of technologies that will enable space settlement . Check out their gallery of space settlement art.

A Bernal Sphere design for an in-space habitat.

SSI offers the  Kindle version of The High Frontier book  by O’Neill for free at Amazon.

Space Habitat - Rick Guidice
A rendering of a pair of large space habitats by Rick Guidice


Prof. O’Neill was a big influence on my own life. I can recall a rainy gray autumn day in 1974 when I went to the mail box and found my latest copy of Physics Today. I was amazed to see that the cover of the usually staid trade publication depicted a huge space station. The article, The Colonization of Space by O’Neill, was equally unusual in the striking contrast between the mind-boggling boldness of his space habitat concepts and the matter-of-fact, down-to-earth manner in which he presented the motivations for such undertakings and how they could be accomplished technically and economically.

I was still a big space fan at the time but there had been a collapse in public interest in space in those post-Apollo years of the 1970s. The gigantic effort and expense that went into putting just a handful of people on the Moon for brief sojourns convinced most everyone that space travel was very impractical and that the domain beyond out atmosphere was as uninspiring as the bottom of the deep dark ocean. O’Neill’s ideas radically refuted such assertions. Colossal space habitats would become verdant islands thriving in the light of a brilliant sun, enabling the rise of new cultures and the opening of our vast solar system to endless exploration and utilization of its riches.

“The Stanford Torus – This space habitat design resulted from a NASA-Ames/Stanford University summer study. It’s a wheel 1.1 miles in diameter.”

As the film’s trailer indicates, O’Neill’s writings and articulate promotion of space habitats revitalized and re-energized interest in human spaceflight for many people. Quite a number of those “O’Neillians” continue to this day to work for the settlement of space.

The appeal of O’Neill’s habitat ideas certainly sustained my own interest in space and inspired my efforts with HobbySpace and other activities, which I hope have contributed a little bit towards encouraging  public interest and excitement in space.

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have giant habitats in open space or even small bases on the surface of the Moon or Mars. For settlements to be feasible, O’Neill counted on the Space Shuttles to lower the cost of getting to space dramatically. Unfortunately, the failure of the Shuttles to come even close to that key goal not only undermined arguments for giant space habitats but for most any human endeavor in space. Lowering space access costs thus became the focus for the past few decades for O’Neillians, some of whom pursued rocket ventures themselves or advocated for government initiatives like the DC-X/XA prototype reusable rocket and NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo program. Such efforts have shown progress as seen by the significant drop in launch prices with the arrival of SpaceX’s partially reusable Falcon 9 rockets. The fully-reusable, fast turnaround Starships now in development could offer the break-through that finally enables affordable space travel.

Elon Musk discounts in-space habitats and sees Starships as the means to create a city on Mars. However, such vehicles will be available for all sorts of space endeavors and space stations are sure to be among these. If designed to grow incrementally and take advantage of resources from the Moon and the asteroids, such orbital installations could eventually evolve into O’Neill’s islands in the sky.


Here is a “Roundtable TV interview” from 1975 in which O’Neill and Isaac Asimov discuss in-space colonies with former Esquire editor Harold Hayes:

[ Update: Here is a Planetary Society podcast program about the High Frontier movie: The High Frontier: A New Documentary About Gerard K. O’Neill – The Planetary Society

Physicist and space pioneer Gerard K. O’Neil gathered a community of followers as he led planning for vast, magnificent human settlements in space. Guests Dylan Taylor, Will Henry and Ryan Stuit have produced an inspiring, feature-length tribute to O’Neill that stars space luminaries including Jeff Bezos, Frank White, Lori Garver, Rick Tumlinson, and many others. Then Bruce Betts and Mat Kaplan are joined by a special listener guest on What’s Up.


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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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