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Author Topic: Asteroid Retrieval, InSitu Propellant and Refueling


unkown1
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 9
Asteroid Retrieval, InSitu Propellant and Refueling
on: November 7, 2013, 03:23

In Rocket Science we are plagued by the problem of requiring huge amounts of fuel to send spacecraft on there interplanetary journeys. On the Saturn V for example over 95% of the mass of the spacecraft was fuel. And that was for just a small 2 person/3 day Lunar Landing. Can you imagine how much fuel would be required for a Human Mars Mission? Let alone a Human Europa Mission.

A proposed solution for traveling to Mars is to use InSitu manufacturing of propellants from the Martian atmosphere for a return trip as proposed by Robert Zubrin in his Mars Direct Proposal. Of coarse Europa has ice for any return trip but even with this advantage the mass of the fuel for just getting to Europa would be prohibitively expensive to launch from Earth. Even if weren't it would be prohibitively complex and expensive to assemble the ship in Earth Orbit from many pieces, with the many launches that would entail all having to launch on schedule lest all the cryogenic propellant boil away.

I suggest a solution to this seemingly unsolvable dilemma. Using the Asteroid retrieval technology NASA is developing to stockpile water rich (carbonaceous) Asteroids in Lunar Orbit as the first step in Objective Jupiter. A single SLS launch could then leverage 2800 tonnes (28 times it's payload delivered to LEO) of witch 560 tonnes* would be propellant (water). This doesn't even mention the possibility that with further advances 7000 tonnes (70 times payload delivered to LEO) including up to 1400 tonnes of propellant*.

Another SLS launch could deliver the unfueled crew vehicle to High Lunar Orbit to refuel before launching to the Jupiter-Europa System. A burn of about 4 km/s would be required to reach the Asteroid/Lunar Orbit to begin with but this is significantly less than the entire Europa round trip, or even one way trip. Another advantage of this architecture worth noting is it could solve the issue of Water and Oxygen (electrolyzed from the water) for the outbound transit as well as the issue of radiation protection (thousands of tonnes of Asteroid regolith I would imagine should be sufficient to protect the crew from deadly radiation).

Sources:
http://www.kiss.caltech.edu/study/asteroid/asteroid_final_report.pdf
* Assumes 20% of mass is water

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