Exploration Alternatives: From Propellant Depots to Commercial Lunar Base

November 15th, 2012 by Chris Bergin

As NASA managers continue to work modifications to an unreleased exploration plan, one that has a Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) at its center, the highly popular concept of an exploration highway – enabled by propellant deports – continues to gain positive overviews. Such a technology may also be involved in a major new commercial effort that will soon be announced.

NASA Exploration:

From the standpoint of the general public, NASA’s exploration goals appear to be no further along from when they were first announced by NASA administrator Charlie Bolden, despite what continues to be a large amount of interesting and positive work behind the scenes.

Officially, the Agency has ambitions to launch their new HLV, the SLS, in 2017 and 2021, both on missions that will conduct orbital visits of the Moon – the latter being crewed. NASA will then aim to conduct mission(s) to a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) in the 2025s, followed by the ultimate goal of sending a crew to Mars in the 2030s.

To any space flight follower, the goals may be interesting, but the time-frame and costs are unattractive, not least because the very nature of such multi-billion dollar missions over a period of decades – and potentially several changes of government – risks downstream cuts and even cancellation.

Refinements to the plan are being evaluated, with the biggest potential change coming in the form of an Exploration Gateway, constructed from international modules at the ISS, before being deployed to Earth-Moon Lagrange (EML) point 2.

Read more: Exploration Alternatives: From Propellant Depots to Commercial Lunar Base | NASA Space Flight.

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