New Space Transportation Architectures Based on the Use of Planetary Resources 2004-01-2313
Space transportation today is undertaken nearly entirely using vehicles launched from Earth in which all elements of a mission are integrated on Earth. Missions to low Earth orbit, Geosynchronous orbit, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, etc., all are launched directly from Earth. Missions requiring large changes of velocity may be staged to gain efficiency, but still everything has to be launched from Earth. As a consequence, missions that emplace rather small payloads on the Moon, for example, Apollo, require very large rockets on Earth. Architectures for exploration beyond low Earth orbit can be dramatically changed if propellants can be produced on the Moon, Mars or small bodies and provided to spacecraft on planet surfaces and at fuel depots in space. Increasingly sophisticated models are being developed that include propellant production, in-space storage and transportation systems that can be used to assess the benefits (and risks) of architectures based on the use of planetary resources. We demonstrate the utility of these models using lunar base and human exploration of Mars scenarios.