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Chapter 1

Introduction

Space exploration today is beginning to take on a new approach via a focus on


global partnerships. Numerous reasons have been put forth for returning to the
Moon, ranging from scientific exploration to resource exploitation for commercial
gain. Regardless of the intent, one thing is clear: lunar activities have only just
begun, and as these expeditions increase in scale and duration, so too will the need
for supporting infrastructure in areas of life support & habitation and transport.
The elements oxygen and hydrogen are invaluable; they address all these needs. In
addition to being essential for synthesizing water and air for life support, oxygen
and hydrogen are commonly used propellants.
Extraction and production methods in which oxygen and hydrogen are extracted
from the lunar regolith1 have been well studied, but little research has been done to
address how these resources may be made readily available to the user.
This report outlines a possible architecture to enable the storage and delivery of
oxygen and hydrogen on the lunar surface. Simply put, Full Moon is a proposal for a
‘lunar gas station.’ A lunar production facility alone will not necessarily enable lunar
explorers to go where they wish. Full Moon aims to be one of the first proposals with
a complete interdisciplinary approach to the storage and delivery architecture on
the lunar surface.

The Full Moon project


Just as purchasing barrels of petroleum from an oil refinery is not the optimal
solution for a mother wishing to drive her children to their daily activities,
connecting directly to a regolith processing facility is unlikely to be the optimal
solution for a lunar explorer wishing to fill up her rover to conduct a geological
survey at a distant site if they are not accessible.

1
Regolith is the term used for the layer of loose, heterogeneous material covering solid rock
on the lunar surface and elsewhere.
Figure 1-1: The Full Moon study, its technical components and its interfaces with
the production facility and users/customers.
Full Moon seeks to fill a gap in the current Moon research by proposing a complete
architecture for storage and distribution of oxygen and hydrogen. In the distribution
chain production, storage, transportation, customer the report addresses the
storage and transportation architecture. The expected demand for lunar delivery of
oxygen and hydrogen is estimated based on current plans by space agencies. It is
assumed that sufficiently large production facilities are installed on the lunar
surface to cover this demand.
The feasibility of the project is evaluated technically, economically and legally. To be
an economically feasible alternative to simply bringing oxygen and hydrogen along
with other supplies from Earth, the cost of producing oxygen and hydrogen gas from
the regolith must be sufficiently low that development, launch costs and
depreciation costs of a production facility are offset by the high cost of transporting
oxygen and hydrogen from the Earth on launch vehicles.

Definition of Project Scope


During the “Moon Symposium” held at ISU in February 2007 it became clear from
several presentations and from discussions with various experts that little work has
been done on storage and transportation of hydrogen and oxygen on the lunar
surface. Storing hydrogen and oxygen on the Moon obviously requires different
solutions than conventional storage on Earth; similarly there are considerable
differences between in-space microgravity storage of hydrogen and oxygen such as
the systems attached to the International Space Station (ISS). The lunar surface
shares characteristics with both of these environments, but it also presents unique
challenges not present in either deep space or on the Earth.
Very extensive research has been and is being conducted in the field of In situ
Resource Utilization (ISRU) for space applications. ISRU is a wide field, and
numerous studies propose and investigate different methods for extracting oxygen
from the lunar regolith, as well as for extracting hydrogen from water ice, should it
be determined to exist in the Polar Regions.
The requirements of potential lunar visitors are not difficult to estimate, there exists
a wide variety of proposals for going to the moon by agencies and private
companies.
In-orbit refueling of spacecraft holds great promise as a cost reducer for space
missions; however it falls outside the scope of this project. In order to limit the
scope of the project it was decided not to consider in-orbit refueling or delivery. This
allows the report to focus on surface issues on the Moon. If a cis-lunar economy
becomes a reality, it is likely (based on orbital mechanics calculations) that
propellant produced on the Moon and shipped from the Moon will be less costly than
propellant launched from the Earth, even for satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
In Full Moon, the delivery chain of a potential in-orbit service is considered to end at
the lunar launch pad. This decision was also made to avoid interfering with the
planned team project of the 2007 Summer Session Program, which will focus on in-
orbit servicing of satellites.
Lunar ISRU promises to deliver other substances than oxygen and hydrogen. In the
near future no manufacturing is expected to take place on the Moon, and also any
byproduct of oxygen/hydrogen production would belong to the production plant, not
to the distributor.
The report focuses on the timeframe 2018 – 2047. All future dates are estimated
from current agency plans. It was deliberately chosen to focus on the “near-term”
since it is believed that this would offer more value to the space community.
It is the hope of the authors that the analysis and conclusions of this report will be
useful to agency planners and commercial companies considering working along
with space agencies to provide a refueling infrastructure in space. It is also hoped
that this report will lay the groundwork for future research conducted by individual
members of our team.

Report Structure (Readers’ Guide)


The Full Moon report follows a logical flow so as to equip the reader with an
understanding of the lunar operation and business environment. A chapter
summary is given here for the convenience of the reader interested in only specific
aspects of our proposed architecture and its interdisciplinary evaluation. However,
the reader is encouraged to read chapters in the following order as later sections
may derive heavily on earlier ones.
Chapter 1: Introduction.
Chapter 2: Drivers & Constraints. This Chapter aims to clarify the demand for
oxygen and hydrogen based on the policy of different space agencies and estimates
of the fuel consumption spacecraft capable of landing on the lunar surface. The
areas of the Moon most likely to be visited for scientific reasons are identified,
similarly the areas most likely to be selected as possible Moon base locations.
Chapter 3: Technical Assessment. This Chapter outlines the unique features of the
lunar environment and the requirements they place upon any lunar installations.
The methods of assessment used in the report are laid out. Various storage and
transportation systems are introduced.
Chapter 4: Recommendations for a System Architecture. Following the analysis of
the preceding chapter, this chapter outlines the architecture proposed by the team.
The location of customers, production facilities and storage facilities are presented.
The transportation systems enabling movement of oxygen and hydrogen between
production facilities, storage facilities and customers are described, and the
interfaces enabling transfer of propellant are briefly introduced.
Chapter 5: Economic Analysis. This chapter examines the economic feasibility of
building the system outlined in the previous chapter. The cost of producing,
transporting and storing oxygen and hydrogen in situ are compared to the cost of
producing oxygen and hydrogen on the Earth and delivering it to the Moon.
Chapter 6: Politico-Legal and Ethical Analysis. This chapter addresses the general
legal framework of space resource utilization, as well as the specific issues
concerned with the implementation of the proposed storage and transportation
architecture.
Chapter 7: Recommendations and Conclusions. The recommendations of our team,
based upon the analysis in this report, are presented.