Elon has tweeted out that early Starships will stay on the moon as part of moon base alpha.
The SpaceX plan is what Nextbigfuture described in last months article “A Sky Full of Starships”.
The SpaceX Starship will have six Raptor engines but will still be larger and cheaper than the external fuel tanks of the Space Shuttle. Elon Musk has a goal of building Starships for $5 million.
If the steel and salaries are half of the total cost of the rockets then the unit costs at different production levels would be:
Two Starships per month would mean $37 million per Starship
One Starship per week would mean $21 million per Starship
Two Starship per week would mean $13 million per Starship
Elon Musk has tweeted out modifications for the SpaceX Starship that will be used for moon landings.
Forward thrusters are to stabilize ship when landing in high winds. If goal is max payload to moon per ship, no heatshield or flaps or big gas thruster packs are needed. No need to bring early ships back. They can serve as part of moon base alpha.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 8, 2020
We’re working on new legs. Wider stance & able to auto-level. Important for leaning into wind or landing on rocky & pitted surfaces.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 8, 2020
SOURCES- Elon Musk Twitter, SpaceX
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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61 thoughts on “Early SpaceX Starship Will Stay as Moon Bases”
Good riddance, I had big hopes for Bigelow, but was shocked at what he planned to charge. From Wikipedia: “Lease of the on-orbit stations was priced at US$25 million to rent one-third of a B330 module for 60 days.” Seriously? So $450 million per year lease cost? Forget it.
Earthwork and sintering sound simple enough to me, but maybe I’m underestimating the complexity. Dust getting everywhere can certainly mess things up.
There was another proposal: to use a special tarp on a sufficiently flat area. That can have a self-deploying frame, similar to a satellite solar panel. Or could be as simple as an inflatable rim with some hard points. Than it just needs to fastened to the ground at those hard points (of course, that can go wrong too).
I don’t think making landing pads is simple at all. At the very least, you need earthmoving equipment, rock removal equipment, and bulk sintering, none of which are going to run smoothly enough to be teleoperated without somebody there to give them a kick.
More likely, you won’t be able to sinter regolith to a sufficient depth that it won’t crack when something lands on it, which likely means that you’ll be blowing big chunks of sintered regolith around during ascent, which is vastly more dangerous than blowing dust and small rocks around.
I’m betting that metal mats will work better than sintering but, again, deploying stuff like this is probably a job for humans.
Another reason to make rough-surface landing crew-safe: You’re going to want to go exploring. If you have to do a robotic pad-making mission to every place you’d like to do a little selenological scouting, that’s going to be expensive–and annoying.
Hey, we can get deBeers to run a moon rock futures market, and dribble the supply out a few hundred kg a mission. Then we’ll see who gets wiped out in the “Moon Rock Mania” crash of 2032.
I think 8-10 little payloads is about right. But if each of them is 1 tonne, then you have about 10 tonnes of deployable surface payloads per mission–which is what I’ve been planning for.
I’m planning on a 20t crew module. That’s basically two decks, with ECLSS and consumables for a crew of 10. I think that’s more than NASA will want to send, at least to begin with. It’ll be interesting to see if SpaceX decides to do One Crew Module to Rule Them All, or goes with something more modular. I favor the modular approach, if for no other reason that a single-deck module would have roughly the same aspect ratio as a tuna can, and we can therefore call it “StarKist”.
You have to be careful here. As far as we know there are no areas in “perpetual sunshine”. There are a few that are lit >99% of the time, but even those have periods darkness that last for about 7 days. The mass of batteries, fuel cells, or APUs that you need to take is based on the worst-case period of darkness, so even if you set up your base near a PONQUEL (a Peak Of Not-Quite-Eternal Light), you still need roughly half the storage mass that you’d need anywhere else on the Moon. That’s better than nothing, but it’s still not great.
There are proposals to put “solar curtains” up on very tall masts, which would then get 100% sunlight with no gaps, but that’s a pretty low TRL technology at this point.
Here’s a better alternative. I did a back-of-napkin that shows that you can deliver 50 kW of electricity for 1 week of darkness using a methalox-driven APU and about 8 tonnes of methalox. In contrast, batteries store roughly 250 Wh/kg. For a one-week period of darkness @ 50 kW, that weighs roughly 34t. The batteries may be a better long-term solution, but the APU is a much better medium-term one.
And of course you may want bases in places other than the poles, and your power needs may fluctuate over time. It’s a lot easier to handle that stuff with an APU than it is to build out storage that you don’t use a lot of the time.
The first few 10-20t lots will fetch a pretty price, after that the price will drop precipitously. But if you’ve got the capacity to bring back tonnage on the first few trips, it will pay to use it.
I agree that NASA will probably design their payload to fit on the midget platforms. So, SpaceX carries 8-10 payloads, instead of one! You loft 8 teams instead of 1, with 8 rovers instead of 1, and off they go in 8 different directions at the same time.
That, or you buy diplomatic credit by inviting 7 friendly nations with space programs to ride-share with you.
It’s not necessary in the first several missions, though. The Moon is close enough for teleoperation even from Earth. And at least making landing pads seems simple enough to not require direct human presence. Though it doesn’t sell as well on the PR side.
As we get a little further along with the new era in space exploitation, I pretty sure we’re going to find that there’s a constant (payload cost)/(launch cost) ratio of roughly 1 over the long haul. But that doesn’t happen overnight, and the launch guys are way out in front of the payload guys right now. It’s going to take a few years before they make the proper trades between mass, quality, and cost to take advantage of big payload capacity.
Beyond that, NASA has probably overlearned the lesson of “never have a single source transport provider ever again”. So until one of the other HLS providers catches to SpaceX, payloads will be designed to fit on the other platforms, which means that they’ll be small.
I’m skeptical about the value of moon rocks when anybody willing to invest $200M or so can deliver them in 10-20t lots. Meanwhile, the planetary scientists are going to be looking for things that tell them something.
From a commercial standpoint, any specimen somebody is willing to pay for is “interesting”, and plenty of people would want specimens for museum exhibits and research purposes, and private collections.
It’s an interesting scenario: NASA contracts for the capacity to put 10T on the Moon, and SpaceX delivers the capacity to put 100T on the Moon. Is NASA really going to just put 10T on the Moon using it, and watch SpaceX land their own 100T of payload a few weeks later? Or worse, having already done so before NASA in a test flight?
No, if SpaceX produces a lander with 100T capacity, NASA will find some way to use it. Invite friendly nations along for the ride, ship consumables for a future mission, something.
That or they’ll find some pretext to demand that SpaceX degrade the performance of the lander, the way they killed the Dragon capsule’s propulsive landing capacity.
Yeah, but you still need a solution for crew.
I’ve been assuming LSS crewed missions will have a 20t crew module, 10t of surface-deployable payload, and 1t of down-mass (“down” = “towards Earth”). Going as high as 10t is easy, but my guess is that it’s beyond the capacity of a single crew to generate enough interesting specimens. NASA isn’t going to develop 100t surface payloads any time soon, because they’d have to single-source with Starship, which ain’t gonna happen. Even getting 10t is problematic, although they can batch a bunch of 1t packages together.
I continue to be skeptical of even the most steeply throttled Raptors near ground level. Doing a hoverslam with an offset of 50m and then using the big thrusters to go the rest of the way sounds almost essential to me. But then you do want to watch your down-mass, to ensure that the process is reversible.
The way Elon’s talking, it sounds like they plan to ramp production steeply. Still, engines are relatively expensive and obviously worth salvaging.
One of the near-term flies in the ointment for lunar Starship reusability is engine maintenance. Getting LSS so that engines are on-orbit- or surface-swappable is probably a fairly easy cost reduction, but it’s pretty low TRL at this point. Until then, LSS reusability is limited to the number of firing seconds that a Raptor can go with no maintenance.
The other biggie is crew module maintenance. If I had to guess, the combination of these two means that we’re unlikely to see more than about 5 LSS reuses before NASA forces SpaceX to send up a new one.
“They can bring solar panels, but the Moon has 14 day nights.”
Unless of course you setup your landing sight/base at the Lunar south Pole; where there are mountainous areas that are in perpetual sunshine 24/7. Also near the ice deposits inside permanently shadowed craters near said poles. And where the extreme temperature changes endemic to most of the moon are muted; temperature is roughly constant in said mountainous areas bathed in sunshine, just roughly around the freezing point of water. The lunar poles will likely shape up to be one of the most valuable pieces of off-planet real estate .
If they’ve got a T/W of less than 1, even with them firing during landing your ship will be accelerating downwards. OK, if it’s still close to 1, you can hover-slam to a point above the ground, with a closing velocity well below the limits of the landing gear, and still not exceed them by the time you touch down.
But it’s best if they have enough thrust in excess of weight to lift off. They should; You’re offloading cargo you’re not bringing back, right? So you can land with a T/W ratio of 1, and take off with the same engines at greater than 1.
But my proposal is to mount exterior extended landing legs with cargo and drop tanks, massing enough that you can do a throttled landing with the main engines. Then refuel the Starship from the drop tanks, and leave the external landing legs behind when you take off refueled.
After all, the first landing since Apollo is going to want to bring back a lot of rocks, they’re going to be valuable enough to bother bringing back until trips become common enough to saturate the market.
What would 50 tons of Moon rocks be worth at even a tenth the current market price? I think the going price right now is several $100k per gram. It could drop a LOT and still be worth bringing back.
Engine production will be limiting for a while; You might leave most of the cargo Starship, but unmount the engines to return them as cargo for reuse.
The engines are mounted to a puck at the bottom of the tank. A quick go-round with a cutting torch, (Or maybe a big can opener!) then ship back the puck with engines mounted to it. Later you can weld an airlock in place of the puck.
Who needs the international space station when you can have a city of a 100 starships on the moon.
All the more reason to leave the first ships on the Moon, I guess. They can bring the stuff needed to make proper landing pads for the later ships. Shouldn’t be an issue taking off from a landing pad.
I’m not even convinced we’ll get the first landings of Artemis before 2030.
These midship 10-ton thrusters are essentially what you’re talking about. They’re at least 28 m off the ground at touchdown, and that assumes that they burn all the way to contact. More likely, they can shut down 10 m before touchdown. (That’s about an 8 mph landing speed.)
The MSL skycrane was only 7.5 m high at touchdown. Admittedly, MSL had 3kN thrusters, and Starship will have 100 kN ones, but you also have about a 5x increase in height, and debris doesn’t scale linearly with height.
At the very least, the thrusters point out somewhat, so debris hitting the landing Starship is unlikely, even if it could cause problems for a nearby base.
The more interesting problem is what you do during ascent. If the thrusters have a lunar T/W > 1, then they can get the Starship to a safe height before firing up the Raptors. But if they have T/W <= 1, then you have to start the Raptors less than a couple of meters from the ground, which is gonna be messy.
I’m working the numbers a bit more thoroughly, but I still think I can make a case that it never makes sense to bring a cargo Starship back. Crewed ships obviously need to return, but leave the cargo hulls sitting around until somebody’s ready to come and turn them into pre-fab pressure vessels for all kinds of applications. At the very least, it will almost certainly be cheaper to leave the first 20-50 CLPS missions where they land. That’s a lot of hardware to repurpose.
Deciding when to outfit cargo SSes with pre-fab hab hardware is still an issue, but it’s a second-order one. If somebody needs to cut a hole in a prop tank to bring in decking and furniture, and then fit an airlock in when they’re done, so be it. I’m confident that there are clever solutions within even the limited tech available to lunar base personnel, and plenty of pre-fab parts that can be sent to help them out.
As far as I’m concerned, that definitely falls into the “later” category. I don’t think that there’s a prayer of getting either lunar water or LUNOX up and running at any viable scale earlier than about 2030. I’d really like to see Artemis transition to its “sustainable” surface ops phase before then.
But the good news is that the economics of expendable lunar cargo Starships really aren’t that bad. If you’re doing things right, cargo missions should be much more frequent than crew missions.
How does Space X propose shielding such massive structures from cosmic radiation?
Yes, that is true, of Mars for example. O’Neill, in “The High Frontier”, shows the away around OTHER problems! (Besides merely launch costs)
Seems like the perfect problems an organization like NASA would be good for. They have thousands of engineers on staff. They’d finally have a challenge worthy of all that engineering talent.
Sooner or later, they can get at least the oxygen from the Moon. That should lower the refuling cost somewhat.
The issue with all of this is timing: when is Elon planning to land these ships vs how long it would take to develop any of these systems (plus the ones that will be needed along with them) vs how soon it will start making sense to bring those ships back. I saw your economic analysis elsewhere, but again: timing? There’s a limited time window when it makes sense to leave those ships there.
Even the “easy” systems will take a while to develop, fit and adjust for the Starship (if needed), test, validate, etc. And none of those systems are alone. You talk about crew accommodations (I guess because I brought them up), but what’s even the point of them if the crew has nothing to do? Right now we don’t even have so much as a Moon-capable bulldozer.
I don’t expect some government program to make these fast, esp NASA. We’ve all seen how SLS has been going. And SpaceX can’t do everything themselves.
I guess SpaceX will need similar systems for Mars, sooner rather than later. He wants a cargo mission there in two years, after all. But if this relies on government programs to build the payloads, that will likely take at least 5 years. By which point, it may already make sense to bring those ships back. In the mean time, I suppose Elon won’t land them to begin with, if there’s no point in landing them.
Yes, they obviously won’t be leaving the crew’s ride home behind.
However, even here, the cost of propellant swamps the cost of the Starship. I see the following evolution for crew transit:
1) SLS/Orion takes crew to NRHO, crew descends to / ascends from the lunar surface on lunar Starship (and other HLS systems), and Orion goes back to a direct EDL.
2) Crew goes to LEO on F9/D2, transfers to a non-EDL transit Starship, which takes it to NRHO, where the LSS does the surface trip. To return, the transit Starship inserts back into LEO, and the D2 takes the crew from LEO to EDL.
3) Starship does the whole ascent / transit / lunar descent / lunar ascent / trans-lunar / EDL on a single ship.
I’m not sure SpaceX ever gets to #3 for the Moon. The cost in propellant is so large that it really doesn’t make a lot of sense–especially if the transit and lunar Starships are reusable for a few missions.
You absolutely need to get Starship crew certified for Mars EDL, and for trans-Mars Earth return EDL as well. But that’s likely the final thing you do.
You should assume that only cargo Starships get left behind. If a crew lands, it’s eventually going home, either on the same ship, or on some other crew’s ship.
The question is what to do with the ridiculously large amount of payload that Starship can land. Surface equipment built by government space programs is going to have a requirement that it land on multiple vendors’ systems, so it’s going to be fairly small. I think that SpaceX is bidding that 3mx3m cargo door in its artwork because nobody could imagine a bigger payload than that being developed.
So there are two things that can be done that are easy:
1) Build bare-bones ECLSS and crew structure directly into cargo Starships, using both the top of the cylinder and nose volume of the Starship payload bay, and possibly even wet-workshop stuff placed in the LCH4 and LOX tanks before they’re filled. I’d expect that these kinds of build-outs would be designed so that the Starship itself can be lowered on its side into a trench and covered up for radiation shielding.
2) I’ve been very fond of the idea of a modular crew systems, which are individual single-deck payloads that can be loaded and unloaded at will. Because they’re about 8m x 2.5m and roughly tuna-can-shaped, the name “StarKist” is almost essential. To unload these, you’d need Shuttle-like payload bay doors and a more exotic crane system, but they could then be lowered directly into pre-dug pits and covered up.
Launch costs was never the biggest problem. A lot of people’s dreams for the future in space was never commercially feasible even if launch costs were free.
Each Starship has a LOX tank that can be used to store ISRU LUNOX.
Truck them into a lava tube and you don’t have to bury them.
The manned versions will be much more expensive as they are in practice space stations.
You also need to send the astronauts, their samples and their equipment up again.
For cargo landers, if you build an base, using them for materials makes sense, You can even recover the engines and other expensive parts.
Don’t see much reasons to land an cargo version unless you build an base.
The crew version can carry many tons of cargo, Lets go nuts couple of tesla derived rovers, an small drill rig and it obviously have an kitchen sink in the galley
It’s a space frame landing gear with all the live stuff mounted above the debris projection cone.
$37~$13 million per Starship & Moon Habitat is ridiculously cheap.
I’m having trouble imagining what, and more importantly how, will be done with these early Starships in the immediate future. All of the habitat and other proposals being discussed here require a whole bunch of additional equipment, which doesn’t exist yet, and won’t exist for a while. Even starting water mining will take equipment that doesn’t exist yet.
On their own, the early Starships will have not enough shielding, no food production, no life support, and no crew accommodations. Keep in mind that the early ones are cargo ships. The crewed version will come later. Even if they stick a few Crew Dragons in there, it’s still little shielding and no food production. Granted, ISS doesn’t have food production either, but that means constant resupplies. And they’ll need to add water recycling, because I’m pretty sure Dragons don’t have that. Oh, and toilets/showers.
Power production is an issue too. They can bring solar panels, but the Moon has 14 day nights. There are no space-approved nuclear reactors yet, and won’t be for at least several years.
So it seems to me, until all those extra systems are developed, the Moon can only be a junkyard, holding metal for a future settlement.
Maybe some variant of the sky-crane concept could be used. This would mitigate the debris problem and allow for more horizontal landing of all sorts of structures without having to fit rockets to them. A specialized sky-crane starship should probably vector the rocket plumes outwards a bit to avoid hitting the cargo. The extra weight of the tether and winch system is offset by the removal of the landing legs. It will return to orbit directly after delivery.
So it’s toroidal?
You have terrible debris problems with this configuration. The bottom of your hab is gonna get hammered during landing. And the top isn’t going to have a great time on ascent.
Note that the big thrusters are shown prominently in use in the artwork for the HLS contract award press releases. I still think that that’s how you avoid hoverslam, or at least mitigate it.
If I needed a big hab that could be buried, I’d:
1) Land a Starship.
2) Dig a big trench next to it.
3) Use a sort of mutant reverse transporter-erector to grab the Starship and tilt it gently into the trench.
4) Outfit it in the horizontal position. As you figure out how to turn the LOX and LCH4 tanks into living space, you can re-litigate all of the old wet-lab/dry-lab arguments that everybody had during Skylab,
5) Bury the whole thing.
In the long run, sure. But SpaceX has a lot of irons in the fire that are decidedly short- and medium-term. If they can chop somewhere between $200M and $500M off of the cost of a lunar surface mission, that’s a big fat hairy deal.
And the development cost is the same no matter what. They can get orbital EDL working using Starlink launches, after they’ve delivered payload (emphasis on the “pay” there). From there, it’s a pretty simple test to get trans-lunar EDL working–if you need it. However, based on the arithmetic above, you don’t need it until you want to bring crews back from the lunar surface straight to EDL. Personally, I think that’s way out there. Crews obviously start out doing EDL on Orion, but my guess is that SpaceX will take crews to LEO in an F9/D2 and transfer them for quite a while. Starship crewed ascent and EDL are likely the last two things to get operationally qualified.
That was my best guess, but Musk’s answer to the question posed was… oblique?
There will absolutely be a reusable Starship. It’s essential to make refueling work, in addition to Mars. But that’s not the issue.
You pretty much must have an expendable version. Without it, there are two deal-breakers:
1) You’ll never get the unrefueled GTO performance you need to handle NSSL payloads. (GTO is really bad with unrefueled Starship, and Space Force isn’t going to let you do refueling on national security payloads, due to the risk).
2) You’ll have NASA wringing its hands about both the cost and the complexity of so many refueling operations. And it’s not a small number that you’re adding to the cost. If the initial flights cost $50M apiece and even if they get 130t of prop to LEO, you’re looking at increasing the cost of a cargo mission by $450M. Even at $20M apiece, it’s still $180M/mission more.
The thing I’m closing in on is that it makes sense to phase Starship development so that you test and then operate SuperHeavy using expendable Starships first. That means that both Starlink and NSSL have it available ASAP.
However, I’d expect that more Starlink launches would launch with the EDL-enabled Starships. That makes those exactly like the F9 launches where SpaceX learned how to land the cores: first they complete their payload mission, and then it doesn’t matter if the EDL test fails.
There is no plan to make methane on the Moon. They could eventually make LOX, but not in time to positively affect either the CLPS or Artemis programs.
I’m sure the 100 tons of cargo to the lunar surface (plus the lander) could have very good use in the meantime.
It’s a little different burying pressurized habitats; It would take an enormous thickness of regolith on top of a pressurized habitat to overcome the internal pressure, so you don’t need domes and arches to support the load, the structure is in tension, not compression.
With liberal use of internal stays, a habitat could easily be approximately flat; It would look just like an air mattress! And be constructed in the same fashion.
Maybe the upper thrusters serve both purposes: Low thrust with reduced debris flinging for landing on the moon, AND sideways propulsion for better handling in high winds.
Yeah, but Musk wants full reusability for logistical reasons when people are on Mars. The upper part of the starship holds on the the useless weight in the event people on Mars want to return to Earth they wouldn’t need to rely on parts, fuel tanks, shielding, etc. As for the lunar ambitions the same holds true, it is much better logistically if no parts are shed, even if more fuel is required. Fuel shouldn’t be an issue anyway with the plans to make methane fuel on the Moon and Mars.
I believe that Bigelow used NASA’s technology for their inflatable habitats, and those patents have recently expired, so anyone can take it where they left.
Another thing that this tweet telegraphs: The economics of Starship reusability don’t make a lot of sense when it comes to lunar surface missions.
Since Elon claims that even v1.0 Raptors are going to cost <$1M each, if we assume that engines are 20% of Starship’s manufacturing cost, then it costs $30M.
I’ve worked through the prop requirements for:
1) Getting 100t to the lunar surface and returning an EDL-capable Starship (120t dry mass) back to Earth. needs 1930t of propellant sent to LEO.
2) Getting 100t to the LS with an expendable Starship (95t dry mass) needs 810t of prop to LEO.
Now we have the condition for when it makes sense to return a cargo Starship to Earth from the lunar surface:
(1930t – 810t) * (specific cost of prop to LEO) < $30M
So for reuse of lunar cargo Starships to make sense, you’d need to be able to get prop to LEO for <$27/kg. If you can get 150t of prop to LEO per launch, that’s <$4M/launch. Starship may get to that price point eventually, but I’d be pretty surprised if early tanker missions cost less the $20M.
This doesn’t mean that all Starship reusability is silly. You obviously need to reuse tankers or the whole architecture falls apart. You eventually need to get crews to the martian surface, and maybe back direct from the lunar surface to Earth EDL but, in the meantime, light, expendable Starships make more and more sense.
Bigalow has no employees at this point. The owner is too busy chasing UFO conspiracies.
So, take a SS and have as payload coils and electronics built into the *rings* of the structure. After landing on Moon, flop the thing down on side and winch the nose along, dropping rings of the mass driver as you go.
The tweet about thrusters seems to indicate that they’re thinking about going back to landing directly on Raptors, despite the debris problems. That’s at odds with SpaceX’s own Lunar Starship artwork. It wouldn’t be the first time that that’s happened, but I’m still puzzled.
Maybe he’s talking about max cargo Starships landing on prepared pads. Maybe there’s a rough-surface version with the thrusters to minimize debris, and a lunar spaceport version without them?
I still somehow imagine SLS money being used for such a project. That would help Mars more than SLS, as well as a lot of other stuff!
Especially when you don’t have the fuel production plants in place to service such a large ship. When life gives you lemons…
Flat roofed? Have you ever built anything you intend to bury?
As launch cost plummets, we encounter other restraints. Making simple structural parts, such as for habs, is so much easier in place than having to fold for a launch vehicle that the launch vehicle will carry the printers to do just that, rather than the folded versions. Even if launch is free. At larger scale, the material on Earth is insufficient or too expensive, compared to ISRU, for launch, even if free. Cheap launch -> cheap ISRU start -> real progress!
I really like the idea of inflatables, really. Inflatable spherical domes, covered in regolith and filled with dirt, water and air are one of my favorite planetary settlement ideas, allowing to build very spacious and pleasant places to live on the Moon and Mars.
But yes, Bigelow Aerospace went belly up not long ago.
Someone else will need to take over this tech and have it ready for what’s to come.
They are inflatables. They can wery vell stay into the launch vector and expanded to the final dimension, creating an huge volume of space. They are also optimal for radiation shield.
Hasn’t Bigelow ceased operations?
Maybe SpaceX could pick up the IP.
It’s one thing to have a starship on the moon, but to use it for ongoing habitation is another. Does he mean using the fuel tanks as habitation as well, or just the crew cabin?
Who is making these nice inflatable flat roofed habitats for Lunar settlements today?
AFAIK, no one. That is, they are another thing to build and pay for that they can’t depend on as part of a lunar settlement plan, or risk having even more delays.
So they are giving a solution that they can themselves build: use a spare Starship as early settlement!
Once there is one settlement and people living on the Moon for long periods and the concept enters the public’s imagination, then the inflatable habitats will be built and finally arrive.
I’ve proposed building the habitat as an external payload that would lock onto the launch restraint system, providing a wider landing base, and include drop tanks that can be converted to living space.
That way you can let go of it on takeoff, and have enough fuel remaining for the return trip, and yet have a landing weight high enough to avoid the need to hover-slam in low lunar gravity.
If the Starships were to deliver 100 tonnes of inflatable habitats then their footprint would be several acres in size, far greater than the square footage of a Starship as habitat. Also, if the inflatables were flat-roofed then they would be far easier to shield than Starships. SpaceX needs to put more creative thought into what can be done on the Moon. Each Starship could complete about 70 round trips to the Moon for every round trip to Mars.
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