SPACE STUDIES INSTITUTE
P.O. BOX 82
PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY 08540
[[librarian note: This address is here, as it was in the original printed newsletter, for historical reasons. It is no longer the physical address of SSI. For contributions, please see this page]]
THE HIGH FRONTIER NEWSLETTER
VOLUME XIVV ISSUE 1
VICE PRESIDENT’S COLUMN
The entire SSI office is in high gear as we make the final arrangements for the Institute’s Lunar Systems Study, which begins next week (January 11-15). Researchers from around the world are beginning to converge on the GE Astro Space Division, which has donated the use of its facility for our workshop. As you know, the purpose of this project is to fine tune the blueprint of a major segment of the human breakout into space. Our study is focusing on near-term economic payback from the use of lunar resources in such diverse areas as shielding, consumables, beamed power for spacecraft propulsion, solar power satellites, etc.
The results of this important workshop will provide a major part of the Institute’s future research plans, and we look forward to communicating the results to you in future issues of Update. NASA has announced that it has accepted a paper on this workshop at the Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century Conference (co-sponsored by SSI), which will be held in Houston in April of this year.
The main portion of this issue of Update features a copy of the Institute’s research timescale, showing our past, present, and selected future research projects. Accompanying the timescale is an article describing each project and its relationship to the critical path.
RETURN TO THE (SIMULATED) MOON
One of the Institute’s most enjoyable projects is a volunteer effort made possible by a grant from the Chicago Society for Space Studies (CSSS). Our Chicago Support Team provided the funds for rental of some lab space at our facility to test scale prototypes of lunar mining equipment. SSI’s mining simulation work was featured on a New York metropolitan area educational television broadcast. Many thanks to CSSS and to our volunteer team which constructed and operates the facility.
SYSTEMS STUDIES AND CONFERENCES
After ten years of Space Studies Institute operations, it is getting to the point where you need a program to keep track of all of our research projects. To refresh the memories of supporters who have been with us since the beginning of the lnstitute’s work, and to bring new members up to speed, the staff of SSI created a graphic depiction of the lnstitute’s projects in the Fall of 1987. This appears on pages 2 and 3 of this newsletter. The purpose of these notes is to provide some detail about our work and how each component fits into the critical path for the human breakout into space.
The systems studies conducted by the Space Studies Institute define the critical path of our research efforts. These are the studies that examine the overall picture of how the individual pieces fit together. The Institute’s biennial conference provides a forum for non-terrestrial materials and space manufacturing research. (For information on how to acquire Conference Proceedings, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Institute. Call the SSI Bulletin Board at xxx-xxx-xxxx evenings and weekends for a look at the tables of contents for each volume of the Conference Proceedings.)
LOW PROFILE STUDY
Following the two major NASA summer studies on space colonization chaired by Dr. O’Neill, the founder of our Institute began to examine ways to initiate the large scale use of space resources for space habitats and solar power satellites without having to start with a huge initial base built all at one time. The first major result of this planning was published by the AIAA as The Low (Profile) Road to Space Manufacturing. It showed a method for using Shuttle External Tanks as reaction mass for an Earth-to-Moon electric mass driver ferry which would greatly reduce the costs of setting up the Earth-Moon infrastructure.
NEW ROUTES STUDY
In 1980 SSI conducted a major systems study which has influenced all of our subsequent work. The study results were published by the AIAA in an article entitled New Routes to Manufacturing in Space. This study introduced the essential concepts of scaling and boot-strapping which will enable us to start with a small ‘seed’ component on the Moon and in space which can grow with a doubling time of 90 days using partial self-replication techniques. Both of the above articles are available on the SSI Bulletin Board, xxx-xxx-xxxx.
SPACE RESOURCES COMPUTER MODEL
Thanks to the work of our Institute and Conferences, many people are interested in examining the use of nonterrestrial materials for space construction and industry. However, it is difficult to compare the various good ideas that researchers have proferred because many of the studies proceed from slightly different assumptions, use different parameters, etc. In order to standardize or at least make the assumptions readily apparent, and at the same time to create a useful training tool for nonterrestrial materials discussions, Dr. Andrew Cutler of the Energy Research Laboratory has proposed a computerbased space resources model. This is an ongoing effort initiated in 1987.
1988 LUNAR SYSTEMS STUDY
At the time of our last major systems study there were a large number of important unknowns. For example, mass-drivers were operating at about 500 gravities and there were a great number of unknown factors involving chemical processing of lunar material, and the construction of solar power satellites from that material. Many of these questions have subsequently been answered by the Institute’s program of research. Other new developments have manifested themselves in the intervening seven years since our last systems study. To pull these all together, SSI organized a new study workshop to be held in January 1988 to take a new look at the critical path and examine the steps required from a return to the surface of the Moon to the large scale use of lunar resources for construction of solar power satellites, space habitats, etc. Of key interest is the near-term return on investment.
SSI/PRINCETON UNIVERSITY CONFERENCES
The Institute’s series of Space Manufacturing Conferences, held at Princeton University since 1973, provide the single most important body of research on the use of nonterrestrial materials available. The tables of contents for each of the Proceedings are available on the SSI Bulletin Board for your inspection.
1988 NASA MOON CONFERENCE
The Space Studies Institute is a co-sponsor of the 1988 Lunar Bases and Space Activity of the 21st Century Conference which will be held in Houston, Texas in April. In addition to NASA, the other major conference co-sponsor is the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Mass-drivers are electromagnetic accelerators which provide the key to launching materials out of the gravity well of the Moon without expending precious reaction mass. They also hold promise as a reaction engine for space-to-space cargo and personnel transfer. (Not listed below, but incorporated into a number of the studies and work elsewhere depicted on this timescale is the analysis of mass-driver reaction engines.)
The first working mass-driver model was constructed by Dr. O’Neill, Dr. Henry Kolm, and a handful of graduate students at MIT when O’Neill was on sebatical there as the Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics in 1976-77. This model exhibited an acceleration of 33 gravities and was widely shown around the country and on the television series Nova.
Constructed at Princeton University, this machine had light beam triggering a push/pull geometry, as opposed to MDI’s push only configuration. It featured light beam triggering of the drive coils and electromagnetic flight for the bucket.
This model, constructed at Princeton University by Dr. Les Snively, verified computer predictions that mass-drivers could attain accelerations of 1800 gravities.
MASS-DRIVER SIMULATION I
This project, conducted by Senior Associate Mark Senn of Purdue, upgraded the computer programs originally designed by Dr. O’Neill for mass-driver design.
MASS-DRIVER SIMULATION II
Dr. Les Snively, who constructed Massdriver III, is creating a detailed simulation of the electomagnetic effects within the mass-driver. Aims of the study include preparing for the task of supplying remote power to the bucket coil as it moves through the machine without physical contact.
Another major component of SSI’s research program involves processing lunar soil into its constituent elements using chemical techniques.
HYDROFLUORIC ACID LEACH PROJECT
This work, performed under contract to the Institute by Dr. Robert Waldron of Rockwell International, proved by bench-scale experiments previously unknown reaction rates and suggested high closure possibililties for this technique which would yield a broad range of products from lunar soil.
HF ACID LEACH PILOT PLANT
SSI is presently examining the feasibility of constructing a pilot scale working model of the HF acid leach process.
The collection of solar power in space is a crucial element of the SSI plan. Because energy has no mass, it may be one of the first large-scale commercial products to be impbrted to the Earth from space. As such, it may be the primary economic driver for the human breakout into the cosmos.
SOLAR POWER SATELLITE FROM LUNAR MATERIALS
This project demonstrated that over 99% of the mass of a solar power satellite could be lunar in origin and the resulting device would weigh only 8% more than the weight-optimized Earth base line.
STERLING CYCLE ENGINE
This project evaluated thermodynamic Sterling Cycle engines as a power conversion tool for space.
BEAMED POWER FOR SPACE PROPULSION
Space-to-space power transmission may provide a way to bootstrap solar power satellites. This study provided an overview of the potential for such systems which could in the near term enable fast transit within the solar system and ultimately (based on work by Robert Forward and Freeman Dyson) provide unmanned and manned interstellar capability.
Biological and physiological factors for long-duration spaceflight and habitation have been important themes at the Institute since its inception. The use of nonterrestrial materials for radiation shielding and rotation as a substitute for gravity have been important elements of our work and conferences. Recently, the Institute has begun to initiate projects in this area.
HUMAN ROTATION TOLERANCE
In order to design the most efficient space habitats, answers to two questions are required. These are: (1) what level of acceleration is required to enable the body to perform normally in space and, (2) what rotation levels can humans tolerate? This project is surveying all known data on human rotation tolerance and includes initial support for a rotating variable gravity sleeper constructed at the MIT Manned Vehicle Lab.
Although manned and unmanned probes have delivered samples from the surface of the Moon, we still know relatively little about the type and extent of the bounty of nonterrestrial materials that await human use.
EARTH-SUN TROJAN ASTEROIDS
In this project, the Institute supported the Ph.D. thesis of Dr. Scott Dunbar, who analyzed the possibility of the existence of asteroids which may be trapped within the Earth’s orbit around the sun at the Lagrange 4 and Lagrange 5 points. Dr. Dunbar is currently searching optically for these materials.
LUNAR POLAR PROBE
This study, performed for the Institute by James French of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, detailed a small scale dedicated probe which could seek out frozen water trapped in the permanently shadowed regions near the Moon’s poles.
At present, the Institute is actively engaged in attempting to answer the question of the existence of lunar water using a relatively inexpensive dedicated probe or probes. The answer to this question will determine the rate of humankind’s expansion into space.
PHYSICAL PROCESSING OF NONTERRESTIAL MATERIALS
When pioneers settled the Americas, they brought their tools and used local materials for construction. However, their first tools were not sophisticated, complex machines like sawmills. Instead, they used shovels and axes to provide simple, durable shelters and other products. Relatively simple forms of processing nonterrestrial materials may prove to be the most rapid and cost effective way to intitiate the harvest of space resources.
SSI researchers are making glass/glass matrix composites of the sort that could provide beams, sheets and pressure vessels for space construction.
LUNAR GLASS PILOT PLANT
The design of a simple, small pilot plant which could land on the lunar surface and begin making glass and glass products is presently under consideration.
LUNAR SOLAR FURNACE
Generic space solar furnace technologies of the sort that could provide useful process heat for a variety of lunar systems will be necessary.
LUNAR OXYGEN PYROLYSIS
The Institute is considering an investigation into high temperature vapor phase pyrolysis which could provide a means of processing oxygen from lunar soil without ‘wet’ chemistry or sacrificial electrodes.
The Space Shuttle’s External Tank weighs approximately 65,000 lbs. when empty. Recent research shows that the entire tank could be inserted into stable orbit for a tiny payload penalty. The Institute has, throughout its history, advocated the use of the tank both as a structure and as a type of nonterrestrial resource which would require only minimal processing and which is of known composition.
EXTERNAL TANK STUDY
This study, performed by Major Alex Gimarc, provided the Institute and members of the National Commission on Space with a comprehensive outline of uses for the Shuttle External Tank when saved in orbit.
VARIABLE GRAVITY FACILITY
The Institute and the National Commission on Space have recommended the construction of a variable gravity space facility to discover what levels of gravity are required to promote normal physiological activity in orbit. This study examines how such a facility might be built using components of the Shuttle External Tank.
‘TANKER TOYS’ CAD PROJECT
With the help of Martin Marietta Corporation and the NASA Marshall Center, Institute volunteers are making the ‘blueprints’ for the shuttle external tanks available in a relatively low cost CAD format so that individuals and organizations interested in using the tank can have an accurate and convenient source of information.
Because of its proximity, low gravity, and composition, our twin planet is an ideal source of raw materials and a place to learn how to create outposts in space. The Institute is engaged in a broad range of projects in each of its research categories which deal with the Moon and use of lunar resources. Projects which specifically deal with the Moon include:
LUNAR MINING SIMULATION
In order to promote the actual and testing of lunar mining equipment, the Institute is engaged in a two part program of lunar mining simulation. The first part entails a lunar mining testbed facility co-located with our Princeton Headquarters. The second portion of our simulation project is a study on location, availability and feedstocks for high quality lunar simulants on the Earth.
THERMAL PHOTOVOLTAIC POWER STORAGE
This project examines the possibility of heating a mass of lunar soil during lunar day and using the re-radiated energy during lunar night as a source of housekeeping and other base power.
LUNAR LANDER PROJECT
The Institute is supporting participation of one of its researchers in a NASA/Florida Institute of Technology Lunar Lander Study.
ORBITAL TRANSFER VEHICLE SURVEYS
SSI examined the availability and requirements for Earth-to-Moon orbital transfer vehicles (OTV) and with it the question of expendable versus reusable systems for this purpose.
In Fall of 1987, SSI established a Volunteer Teleoperations Working Group which is examining the ability of human beings to control equipment and processes in real time at lunar distance. Progress is being made towards software and hardware systems to simulate teleoperation in cislunar space.
While not exhaustive, the above summary lists the major past and present Institute projects along with a number of future areas for study. Our goal remains the demonstration of systems and technologies required to open the High Frontier for human benefit in the near future.
©space studies institute
NEXT: 1988 March-April (“The Issue Is Cost”)