Dec 012011
 

Propellant makes up over 90 percent of the weight of a spacecraft

 
Imagine if every time you went for on a trip, you had to carry all the fuel required to get you to your destination and back – even if that trip was to a place far, far away, like say Mars. In space there are no refueling options available (yet), and given that propellant makes up over 90 percent of the weight of a spacecraft, this issue is fundamental to saving costs and driving future space exploration. Now the Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is looking to establish the first operational base to mine ice on the Moon that will be used to produce liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants for distribution to spacecraft via the first gas stations in space … and the plan is to be open for business by 2020.

According to SEC founder Bill Stone, such orbital gas stations are (along with economical Earth-to-orbit transport like that being pursued by Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, and places to stay in orbit) one of the three things essential for humans to expand further into space. It is this need that SEC aims to meet while becoming the “world’s foremost space-based energy company providing rocket propellants, life support, consumables, and services in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and on the Moon to all spacefarers.”

Stone believes an industrial expedition to the Moon would cost around US$15 billion, which he says is comparable to the cost of a large North Sea oil production complex. And if he wasn’t already being ambitious enough, Stone says the company plans to have industrial astronauts on the Moon and be open for business by 2020. The initial focus will be the Moon’s poles with SEC planning to launch two robotic scouting missions – including the South Pole’s Shackleton Crater – in the next four years.

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