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Paving the Way to Sustainable Lunar Settlement

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The why and how of realistically industrializing the Moon in a way that is sustainable and profitable.

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Paving the Way to Sustainable Lunar Settlement

  1. 1. Paving the Way to Sustainable Lunar Settlement Michael Mealling Starbridge Venture Capital, Waypaver Foundation, Moon Society
  2. 2. The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. — Friedrich August von Hayek
  3. 3. The Moon What is special about the moon?
  4. 4. Advantages ● Very close - Crewed missions take about three days ● No atmosphere - free vacuum for industrial processes ● No significant geological processes - everything that lands there stays there ● Radio silent - far side is the quietest place in our solar system ● Resources - lunar soil contains oxygen, silicon, iron, calcium, aluminum, etc. ● Water - ice in permanently shadowed craters
  5. 5. Once you get to earth orbit, you’re halfway to anywhere in the solar system. — Robert A. Heinlein
  6. 6. Space Travel 101 ● Moving from one place to another requires acceleration, or Δv, which means “change in velocity”. It is represented as kilometers per second (km/s). ● Δv in space requires a rocket of some type to provide that acceleration. How efficient that rocket is determines how much fuel you need. ● The rocket must accelerate not only the payload, but all the propellant the rocket is about to use—or will ever use in the future. ● The relationship between the intended Δv of the payload and the fuel necessary to achieve that is exponential.
  7. 7. Image courtesy Dennis Wingo Space Travel Is About Acceleration and Gravity 13.8 km/s ~4 km/s Most of our communications satellites live here Δv from Earth to GEO: 9.5 + 4.3 = 13.8 km/s Δv from Moon to GEO: 2.52 + 1.38 = 3.9 km/s 3.5 times easier to get to GEO from the Moon than Earth
  8. 8. Falling Down The Gravity Well ● Falling down a gravity well is easier than climbing out of one. ● Remember, the relationship between Δv and fuel is exponential. ● This makes anything on the Moon inherently less expensive than anything launched from the Earth. ● United Launch Alliance’s “CisLunar 1000” program projects that, with all infrastructure costs added in, this will reduce cost to geosync by 40% resulting in billions in launch cost savings.
  9. 9. Solar Power ● In many locations lunar soil contains all of the materials necessary to fabricate thin film solar cells. ● The generated power can be beamed to LEO and to the Earth using microwaves. ● Built entirely robotically using dozens, not hundreds of launches. ● No problems with clouds/rain
  10. 10. Radio Astronomy On The Far Side ● The far side of the Moon is the quietest place in the Solar System for radio astronomy. ● We are a noisy bunch. ● 3D printed and robotically maintained observatories would be economically competitive with terrestrial observatories.
  11. 11. Mining Asteroids On The Moon ● The Moon endured the same Late Heavy Bombardment of asteroids that the Earth endured 4 billion years ago. ● This is where Earth’s most valuable mineral resources come from. ● All of those resource are still on the Moon undisturbed by erosion and tectonic activity. ● Lunar magnetic anomalies may be large nickel-iron asteroids
  12. 12. Current Plans What is happening now?
  13. 13. Launch Becoming Cheaper $ 20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 Shuttle Ariane 5 Soyuz-FG H - IIB Long March 3B Falcon 9PSLV Falcon Heavy Launch Cost: $ per Kg ● Launch is price elastic. E.g. the more the cost drops the more demand grows. ● Reusability proven possible. ● Private capital and commercial methods lower operational costs.
  14. 14. Spacecraft Are Shrinking ● Both size and cost are shrinking. ● Cubesats are the fastest growing segment of satellite development and launch. ● In 2015 STMSat-1, built by elementary students at the St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, Virginia, was launched from the International Space Station.
  15. 15. Political Will ● Whitehouse redirecting NASA back to the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars. ● NASA is building a Lunar ‘gateway’ station. ● NASA directed to use Public Private Partnerships for lunar transportation and surface operations. ● Congress is already stripping some commercial language from legislation. ● (You should probably call your representatives)
  16. 16. Private Companies Developing Infrastructure Astrobotic Masten Space iSpace Shackleton Energy PT Scientists Moon Express
  17. 17. Economics How is this sustainable?
  18. 18. “Developing markets is a lot like gardening. You don’t get to place the leaves. It’s not bonsai. If you put a bunch of seeds down, you water things the right way, you maintain the right conditions, and you have to have a certain amount of faith, plants will spring up.” — Jeff Greason
  19. 19. Flight Rate ● Launch prices are elastic. The more we fly the cheaper it becomes. ● Falcon Heavy, Vulcan, and New Glenn have or will have the ability to land commercially significant infrastructure on the Moon within five years. ● The transport of water and/or fuel from EML1 to LEO and back creates a cislunar transportation network that is also price elastic. ● If launch to LEO prices drop to $1000/kg and a cislunar transportation service is developed for fuel, then other commercial services become viable.
  20. 20. The First Customer ● The most important development is finding the first customer. ● ULA is writing Letters of Intent to purchase fuel in LEO for $3000/kg ● Predicated on a ULA customer willing to use LEO refueling for geosync or beyond missions. ● There is a role for Government to act as an anchor customer similar to the Air Mail Act and the Pacific Railroad Acts. ● Commercial ISS resupply and Commercial Crew programs are successful precedents.
  21. 21. Gardening Not so fast...
  22. 22. Details Are Discovered ● The Integrated Space Plan from 1989 ● Nothing happened according to plan ● Nowhere in the plan will you find the “Give birth to Elon Musk” ● Plan for risk ● Plan for disruption ● Plan to fail ● Create the right conditions
  23. 23. Things We Don’t Know ● Where are economically useful concentrations of water? ● How to reliably navigate on the surface? ● How to separate the water from the soil? ● How/where to convert the water to cryogenic liquid oxygen and hydrogen? ● How to communicate with infrastructure on the far side? ● Are humans necessary? ● How do you power rovers that are in permanent shadow? ● How do you prevent waste heat from spacecraft from sublimating the water you are mining?
  24. 24. ● How robust are robotic mechanisms at -366°F? ● How does a rover traverse down into a two mile deep crater? ● How do you survive the two week lunar night? ● How do robotic systems handle temperature swings from +260 °F to - 280 °F? ● What is the radiation flux at the lunar poles? ● What does highly abrasive lunar dust do to mining systems? ● How do you build a cryogenic capable refueling tug? ● How do you build a depot that minimizes cryogenic boil-off? ● What is the legal regime for resources extracted from the Moon? ● Who is the anchor tenant? ● If that anchor tenant is a Government what happens if budgets are cut? ● What happens if there is a recession? ● Etc…
  25. 25. In investing, what is comfortable is rarely profitable. — Robert Arnott
  26. 26. Not Knowing Is OK ● In 1995 there was no plan for scaling the Internet to the entire planet. ● But the right conditions existed. ○ Netscape ○ Alta Vista ○ Wikipedia ○ Google ○ Facebook ○ Netflix ○ Amazon ○ CMGI (!) ○ Pets.com (!!!) ● Approaching 10% of global GDP
  27. 27. The Opportunities Are In The Process Answering each question is a challenging technical problem that produces knowledge that can be commercialized on its own. Each step doesn’t just retire risk, it creates markets and capital that set the conditions for answering the next. Development/Diffusion Time Bearings capable of 1000 Kelvin gradients Ultra-wide band radar for navigation Water extraction in arid environments Ultra high bandwidth laser communications in space Profitable lunar industry
  28. 28. Opportunities ● Investing ● Teaching ● Media & Marketing ● Engineering ● Policy & Law Build A Company ● Autonomous Robotics/Self Assembly ● Cryogenic Materials ● Autonomous Industrial Processes ● Power Storage ● Wireless Power Transmission ● Delay Tolerant Networking (IoT) ● Low Cost Spacecraft Systems ● Dust Mitigation In Microgravity/Vacuum ● 3D Printing Using In Situ Feedstocks ● Guidance/Navigation/Control w/o GPS ● Low Cost Radiation Hardened Electronics ● Directed Radiative Heat Transfer ● Telerobotic Lunar Surface Games & VR ● Resource Claims Perfection Using ROVs ● Insurance ● Commodities Exchanges ● Cryogenic Fluid Transfer and Lossless Containment ● Low/No Gravity Fractionating Processes ● Tour Guides
  29. 29. No One Cares About Your Technology! ● Do NOT create a zero-gravity pen. Use a pencil. ● There MUST be a Customer with a Problem before you begin to build anything. ● Be very aware of your Customer’s Customer and your Vendor’s Vendors. ● The space industry is going through puberty. Keep a cash reserve and be prepared to move quickly. ● Find and sell to multiple different markets. Especially if there is a terrestrial one. ● If you think you have what it takes, prepare for the NYSA Shark Tank in November!
  30. 30. If this stuff was easy everyone would be doing it. — Michael Mealling
  31. 31. Michael Mealling +1-678-640-6884 Starbridge Venture Capital michael@starbridgevc.com Waypaver Foundation mmealling@waypaverfoundation.org Moon Society president@moonsociety.org
  • pgoggin

    Apr. 27, 2018
  • SamuelConiglio

    Apr. 24, 2018
  • mmealling

    Apr. 23, 2018
  • scherrey

    Apr. 23, 2018

The why and how of realistically industrializing the Moon in a way that is sustainable and profitable.

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