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Lunarport: A proposed Lunar-resource station to expand deep-space travel horizons

Gat, Ilana and Talon, Thibaud (2017) Lunarport: A proposed Lunar-resource station to expand deep-space travel horizons. In: 2017 IEEE Aerospace Conference. IEEE , Piscataway, NJ, pp. 1-8. ISBN 978-1-5090-1613-6.

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Deep-space travel is limited by the costly voyage to leave Earth's atmosphere and gravitational pull. The volume of propellants per unit mass of the payload required for that segment constrains the payload size and payload destination. To circumvent that limitation, this paper presents the feasibility of a refueling station using Lunar resources, called Lunarport. On Earth's moon, an unmanned station will robotically mine, produce, and store fuel and oxidizer from water ice at the poles. A first-stage-like rocket, called the Lunar Resupply Shuttle (LRS), stationed there and propelled with mined resources, will launch and dock with a passing payload-carrying rocket. That rocket will be reloaded with propellants by the LRS, after which the LRS will detach and the payload-carrying rocket will continue its journey to its desired trajectory. The LRS will wait in Lower Lunar Orbit (LLO, to avoid deterioration from Lunar regolith) until another payload-carrying rocket is launched from Earth, after which, the LRS will land back on the Moon, reload propellants, and launch again to dock with the next rocket. This paper elaborates on Lunarport, presenting proof-of-concept calculations of the increase in payload size sent to various payload destinations as well as a cost-benefit analysis. By way of example, NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) en-route to Mars that refuels at Lunarport can have a payload approximately 17 metric tons (mT) heavier than one traveling straight to Mars from Earth. This increase of more than 50% [1] is just to a relatively nearby planet — Mars. Sending a payload farther offers larger benefits with Lunarport. Wear-and-tear issues the port will be subjected to are also discussed. A full analysis of Lunarport will be done during the 2017 Caltech Space Challenge sponsored by Airbus Defence and Space held from March 26–31, 2017.

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Gat, Ilana0000-0003-0223-0507
Additional Information:© 2017 IEEE. The authors thank Caltech, GALCIT, JPL, and KISS for the continued support of this event. In particular, Michele Judd, Dimity Nelson, Jamie Meighen-Sei, and John Kastanas have been instrumental in the success of all the Caltech Space Challenges. The authors would also like to acknowledge support from and thank the Space Challenge Caltech advisor Paul Dimotakis funded by the Caltech Northrop Chair, and the JPL advisors Jakob Van Zyl and Anthony Freeman. Past Caltech Space Challenge chairs and technical leads Prakhar Mehrotra, Jonathan Mihaly, Nick Parziale, Jason Rabinovich, Niccolo Cymbalist, Hayden Burgoyne, and Jay Qi are thanked for their tremendous help and support on the 2017 challenge, and for their hard work on past challenges. Erika Figueroa Schibber, Francesca Baldini, Haolu Zhang, Maria Sakovsky, and Yuchen Wei are thanked for their help on the 2017 Caltech Space Challenge. Financial support for this event is provided by Airbus Defence and Space, the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS), Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Schlumberger, JPL, GALCIT, Caltech, and Microsoft. A full list of current and past sponsors can be found at The authors would like to acknowledge a personal support by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. DGE-1144469.
Group:Keck Institute for Space Studies, GALCIT
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Airbus Defense and SpaceUNSPECIFIED
Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS)UNSPECIFIED
Northrop Grumman CorporationUNSPECIFIED
Boeing CorporationUNSPECIFIED
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipDGE-1144469
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170614-164521270
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Official Citation:I. Gat and T. Talon, "Lunarport: A proposed Lunar-resource station to expand deep-space travel horizons," 2017 IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT, USA, 2017, pp. 1-8. doi: 10.1109/AERO.2017.7943623
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:78223
Deposited On:15 Jun 2017 01:15
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 17:37

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