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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