Re: SPACE: ISS (and Other) Thoughts

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Mon Oct 23 2000 - 13:54:39 MDT wrote:

> <> Would it be possible to actually use the ISS as a "construction base" for
> projects such as assembling translunar or interplanetary vehicles? This
> question is prompted by the extreme caution I know is used when the shuttle
> gets close to the ISS even in its current configuration, in terms of not
> pulsing the ACS jets toward the solar panels. I gather that once the Big Rig
> of solar panels is in place that final docking will be accomplished by
> capture with the station's big arm, to cut down on final correction firing of
> the shuttle's ACS. With that delicacy in mind, is it practical to think
> about having a lot of hardware being moved around anywhere near the
> "completed" ISS? If not, would there still be savings in doing work based
> from the ISS, but "commuting" a short distance to a work site in some kind of
> small "taxi" vehicle?

I'm no expert "space cadet" but it seems to me a better design would
have been to put the solar cell array (or better) external to the
working station and beam the power to the station. Especially if the
power generation mechanism is quite delicate. Perhaps the station could
beam power to smaller working shacks?

> <> What are the cost/benefit factors effecting creation of a fuel depot near
> the station for use by other vehicles. This always seemed to be an inherent
> element of the Original Plan (c. 1955 - i.e. the one I was weaned on). I can
> envision low-cost, specialty tankers, perhaps Big Dumb Boosters, for the
> purpose of ferrying fuel into LEO. I realize that using lunar resources at
> the Moon makes the most sense for getting energy there, but does a fuel depot
> in LEO at or near ISS or something like it make sense?

AFAIK it would make a lot more sense to process near-earth asteroids for
fuel (and construction materials and other worthwhile volatiles) than to
try to do anything like that from lunar resources. And it would be a
lot cheaper than hauling all the fuel up from earth. Of course there is
a bootstrapping problem of getting enough stuff "up there" to extract
fuel and other goodies from local space rocks.
> <> What about using ISS as a base for an on-orbit satellite retrieval and
> repair service? I've envisioned an unmanned "tug" vehicle, based at the ISS,
> able to make the transit from LEO to GEO, for the purpose of placing
> satellites into GEO, or of retrieving hardware from anywhere within that
> regime. Targets could be brought back to ISS for servicing there, or for
> packing into relatively "dumb" reentry shells to be shipped groundside for
> servicing. Are there decent economics in this?

Much more economical if you have the fuel to do the work and a series of
useable vehicles that stay in orbit for the purpose.

> CAVEAT: All of this is near term stuff and I know that flinging monkeys into
> space doesn't make a lot of sense in the long run.

It may not make sense in the short run if instead we can set up robotics
to build some of the infrastructure needed to support monkeys in space.
As I'm sure many know we need to set up some economically viable and
lucrative space activities to justify sending many monkeys up. I vote
for local asteroid mining myself. Cheaper than going to the moon.
Richer variety of materials than can be had from the moon. Able to be
fairly well automated. Tons of very high grade ore, fuel, building
materials and volatiles for the taking. The trick is to get enough up
that to tap that first rich rock in order to fuel more and to start a
space gold (well not exactly gold per se) rush.

- samantha

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:50:18 MDT