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Micro-Space Update and Forum Discussion

Published by Rob on Fri Mar 7, 2008 8:24 am
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We are finishing the welding on a batch of 14 of our bipropellant Liquid Fuel motors. These are not optimized for vacuum use, but are similar to what we will use to accelerate from LEO to Lunar Transfer, brake into Lunar orbit, and descend to the Moon. These motors will actually go into both level 1 and Level 2 “Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander competition” (NGLL) vehicles, and “Earth Launched” Space Diving demonstrators. These spaceflight simulations – on Earth – are more demanding that actual spaceflight due to the lower ISP in air, the greater thrust required with one G, and the faster control dynamics. (Other factors present in space are reduced or avoided.)

We have nearly 100 of our flight qualified, ultralight fuel tanks in stock. These lightweight high pressure tanks make the high mass ratio (and low empty weight) of our pressure fed rocket systems possible: without this factor, our projected missions would be impossible. Note that all our mass projections are based on measured systems mass, not theoretical predictions.

Our NGLL systems use four to ten of these fuel tanks. The Ten tanks hold up to 350 pounds of fuel, and (with less than 50 pounds system empty weight) this makes the landing of a 300 pound astronaut (with pressure suit and life support) on the Moon possible. This is our Crusader HTS (Human Transport System) configuration.

For the Google Lunar X PRIZE, we will cluster 30 fuel tanks (holding 1000 pounds of fuel) as a Lunar Transfer Stage in a Falcon 1 payload. ONE or TWO landers with reduced fuel load and rovers will be included. This cluster will mass 500 pounds and be able to land 150 pounds on the moon. With 50 pounds total empty weight, this will leave 100 pounds for rovers and other payload equipment.

Our original concept (before the Google Prize) was to offer a single lander with 100 pound payload. Standing seven feet tall on the Moon, and stabilized by locked landing legs, this could handle a drilling system for subsurface exploration on the Moon. After successfully pulling the drill stem and instruments from one bore hole, the lander could then restart its motors and hop to additional test locations. (Other instruments could of course analyze the surface close to the lander as well as analyze core samples.) Using the remnant of the Transfer bus as a lunar relay satellite, the system could link to landers at both the Lunar Poles, and Far-Side.

With the narrower focus of the Google competition, we prefer the concept of sending two lighter weight landers (same general size) to the Moon. With lightweight (30 pound) rovers, either could complete the required image collection and transmission. This increases the probability of success with a single Launch vehicle.

A very important alternative mission for these components is the Human circumlunar flight described above. Using the same Falcon 1, and 30 tank Lunar Transfer Stage, a human astronaut can be accelerated to a circumlunar, free return orbit. The 500 pound payload is sufficient for the traveler, life support, compact habitat and Earth reentry system. Micro-Space has many of these components in stock and in operation.

A Human lunar landing would require two Crusader HTS units (presumably successfully demonstrated by landing on the Moon in a Google effort), and much more fuel. The total mass for a solo flight of this type would be at least ½ the Falcon 9 payload. Although the primary components for this system are also in production at Micro-Space, space validation of the lander and orbital rendezvous systems are called for.

We are presently preparing for operational testing of both the lightweight and HTS landers for NGLL competitions, Google competition efforts and Human adventures. The fact that all three use very similar systems and that the major components of these systems are already operational and in production, makes our short time projections possible.

Please feel free to discuss this topic further in the Micro-Space Forum…

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