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SpaceDev Claims Lunar Missions Can Be Completed For Less Than $10Bn

Translunar Moonward. Photo: Business Wire.
Poway CA (SPX) Nov 22, 2005
SpaceDev has announced the results of its International Lunar Observatories Human Servicing Mission, conducted for Lunar Enterprise Corporation.

The study, which was completed in phases over the last three years and presented at the International Lunar Observatory Advisory Committee Workshop held this past weekend, concluded that safe, lower cost missions can be completed by the private sector using existing technology or innovative new technology expected to be available in time for the first mission.

NASA recently announced plans for a Lunar mission expected to cost $104 billion over 13 years.

SpaceDev's results indicate a more comprehensive series of missions could be completed in a fraction of the time for one-tenth of the cost. Each mission, as envisioned by SpaceDev, would position a habitat module in Lunar orbit or on the moon's surface.

The habitat modules would remain in place after each mission and could be re-provisioned and re-used, thus building a complex of habitats at one or more Lunar locations over time. Source: SpaceDev

"We are not surprised by the significant cost savings that our study concludes can be achieved without sacrificing safety and mission support. Since SpaceDev was founded, our projects and studies have consistently come in at significantly lower costs than those of the large aerospace companies and government agencies," said SpaceDev founding chairman and chief executive, Jim Benson.

"If we are correct about our Lunar mission cost estimates, our type of human mission could have forty people visiting the Moon for the cost of NASA's first mission."

The SpaceDev study creates a conceptual mission architecture and design for a human servicing mission to the Lunar south pole targeted for the period between 2010 and 2015 that would be low in risk and cost.

The length of stay on the Moon will be seven or more days, depending on cost, practicality and other trade-offs. The study explored existing technology, technology currently under development, and proposed technology that could be developed by NASA, other countries or the private sector in time to be incorporated into the mission.

The study divided the missions into segments, for example Earth launch to low Earth orbit (LEO) and to Geo Transfer Orbit (GTO), LEO and GTO to Lunar orbit, Lunar orbit to landing, takeoff to Lunar orbit, Lunar orbit to LEO, and return to Earth from LEO.

The study also concluded that a combination of technology already under development or under consideration by SpaceDev and other companies could be combined to create a growing and lasting presence at the Moon again at costs significantly lower than those proposed by other organizations.

In addition to existing launch vehicles, components such as the orbital version of SpaceDev's proposed six passenger Dream Chaser vehicle, based on NASA's HL-20 Personnel Launch System, and hybrid rocket motor modules can provide rapid, cost-effective building blocks to construct a variety of missions.

An exciting concept, borrowed from an early mission design based on sending a Mercury capsule to the Moon, is the "rocket chair" used to land each of the four Lunar visitors.

The rocket chairs as envisioned by SpaceDev would be modular and dual purpose, able to land small Lunar observatories or other science experiments, and could also be used to land individuals from orbit.

The rocket chairs have the additional feature of having sufficient propellant to ascend back to the command module for the return trip to Earth. On the way to the Moon, should a problem develop, the four rocket chairs, attached to the capsule, have sufficient propellant to return the capsule to Earth for a direct atmospheric reentry.

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Ames Hopes To Get A Chance To Help Dig Up Moon
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Nov 21, 2005
NASA has announced that it is assigning management of its Robotic Lunar Exploration Program to NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

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