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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