Lunar Mining Outpost Using Cybertruck Bulldozers

SpaceX could use the electric skateboard of the Cybertruck to build all the of vehicles that they need for a lunar mining operation. About twenty-five to thirty cybertrucks could be delivered to the moon with every SpaceX Starship.

A lunar base and mining operation would lower the cost for lunar operations by 70 times and by ten times for high earth orbit. A lunar mining operation would also lower the cost of operations to Mars and the SpaceX plans for a city on Mars. Before, Elon Musk makes a city on Mars using a dozen fleets of one hundred Starships he will build a mining town on the moon.

Hypebeast has rendered a Tesla Cybertruck as a six-wheel lunar rover.

Cybertrucks could be converted into bulldozers and mining machines.

Nextbigfuture has noted that with about 20 lunar missions with SpaceX Starships, SpaceX could build a one gigawatt industrial moon base. This would use solar power and batteries.

Philip Metzger has a study of mining water on the moon. If water is mined on the moon then it could save satellite missions to geosynchronous orbits about $100 million. If SpaceX can build the Moon base and mining operation for about $4-10 billion, then they could easily capture the $2-3 billion in revenue from providing lunar water for space operations.

Metzger study identified a near-term annual demand of 450 metric tons of lunar-derived propellant equating to 2,450 metric tons of processed lunar water generating $2.4 billion of revenue annually.

Water can be mined on the Moon, delivered to a gas station, sold to operators of the space tug, who will then boost the satellite to its final orbit for much less than $100 million per spacecraft. Here is the link to the 189-page water mining on the moon report.

It has been discovered that instead of excavating, hauling, and processing, lightweight tents and/or heating augers can be used to extract the water resource directly out of the regolith in place. Water will be extracted from the regolith by sublimation—heating ice to convert it into water vapor without going through the liquid phase. This water vapor can then be collected on a cold surface for transport to a processing plant where electrolysis will decompose the water into its constituent parts (hydrogen and oxygen).

To achieve production demand with this method, 2.8 megawatts of power is required (2 megawatts electrical and 0.8 megawatts thermal). Metzger assumed 15 individual panels of 900 square meters each to meet our power requirement assuming 29% PV efficiency from ROSA and a 54% power beaming efficiency) to support the 2.8MW power requirement.

Ten SpaceX Starships could deliver thirty times as much power to the moon for a larger mining operation than the Metzger proposal.

The majority of the electrical power will be needed in the processing plant, where water is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen. This substantial amount of power can come from solar panels, sunlight reflected directly to the extraction site, or nuclear power. Because the bottoms of the polar craters are permanently shadowed, captured solar energy must be transported from locations of sunlight (crater rim) via power beaming or power cables or using solar mounted on towers.

The equipment needed for this lunar propellant operation will be built from existing technologies that have been modified for the specific needs on the Moon. Surprisingly little new science is required to build this plant. Extensive testing on Earth will precede deployment to the Moon, to ensure that the robotics, extraction, chemical processing and storage all work together efficiently. The contributors to this study are those who are currently developing or have already developed the equipment required to enable this capability. From a technological perspective, a lunar propellant production plant is highly feasible.

As refueling decreases in-space transportation costs, entirely new business and exploration opportunities will emerge with potential to vastly benefit the economies of Earth. Even with the early customers identified within this study, it has been determined that this could be a profitable investment with excellent growth opportunities.

SOURCES- Metzger Report, SpaceX, Hypebeast, Joel Sercel, NASA NIAC
Written By Brian Wang,

57 thoughts on “Lunar Mining Outpost Using Cybertruck Bulldozers”

  1. I was expecting a custom made tanker fit for the purpose of delivering propellant around cislunar will be more cost effective in the long term than a fully amortized Starship. But my larger point/concern was, infrastructure investment for insitu production will be retarded if these low end notional launch costs are realized in the near future. If resources sourced from earth is cheap enough, it doesn’t even need to be cheaper or close to it, it will disincentivize investment in space base production capacity.

  2. Other, more detailed articles on the boats (that would take me a while to track down) go into the serious problem the concept encountered.
    These are hinted at in the Wiki article, but not explored.

    Basically, a submarines entire point is that it can go underwater. Going underwater is the entire basis of their defense, their stealth, their reaction to any enemy encounter.
    Aircraft carriers entire point is acting as an airfield for their aircraft. Launching (and being able to land, refuel, rearm, launch again) is the entire basis of their defense, their attack, their reaction to any enemy encounter.

    You can’t do one of those things while doing the other. A sub carrier that is actually using the aircraft is a very poor carrier. Too small, too low to the water. Not enough on-board facilities and supplies. And with no submersible ability while using the aircraft.
    A sub carrier that is actually sub-marine is a poor sub. Too big, too noisy (a launch runway isn’t very hydrodynamic), not as many torpedos and sensors as a normal sub anywhere near the same size and cost. And it can’t use the aircraft while under the sea.

    So you’ve got a boat that’s poor at both the functions, and can’t combine them.

  3. Thanks. That doesn’t sound disastrous, but “The existence of the Seiran was not known to Allied intelligence during the war.” suggests it didn’t do anything useful militarily.

  4. Showing that something is possible is a lot less advantageous than showing something is profitable. The main problem is not no profit for the Mars settlers benefit, it is that no profit for them means no help to Earth. That means Earth should support O’Neill such as Space Solar, and let the Mars people pay for SLS, ISS and all other pre-Mars only research.

  5. Mars doesn’t need to have a “profit path” for it to be successful. If a community is built there, their own businesses will spring up. Some of which, due to the low gravity well and practically unlimited uncontested resources, will be interplanetary. But the reality of it is that Mars doesn’t need to send money to Earth. That’s not how this is going to work.

  6. They’re gonna need some serious radiators on them if they want to operate for more than 5 minutes… Mind you, they won’t be going very fast.

  7. The price to LEO would drop but using Starships to send propellant from the moon would also drop the price from the moon. Moon will always be cheaper if the same launchers are used. It will take some time to scale up Starship production for the lower price. There would still be a demand for propellant (for the moon and high orbits) but it would be a more complex model to shift the prices dynamically. The demand would depend upon what space stations are created.

  8. … following shortly after …with of course best video (feature or tv/stream) of significant Moon presence:
    – 2001 – A Space Odyssey (1968)
    – Moon (2009)
    – Space 1999 (1975)
    – … and a bunch of animation/ anime stuff unlikely to appeal to this audience

  9. Scifi Nuts-Epic Movie of 20th Century-Big Anniversary:
    Destination Moon, screen play by Rip Van Ronkel, Robert Heinlein and James O’Hanlon, from a novel by Mr. Heinlein; directed by Irving Pichel; produced by George Pal and released by Eagle-Lion. (Premiere: June 29 1950)

  10. Could a fully-geared up 6’2 astronaut actually fit through the door and sit comfortably and functionally within a Cyber-truck? Me thinks you are either a free-wheeling rover, open and quick or you’re a mobile base command truck – more likely a modified Tesla semi or off-road rated roadster convertible.

  11. Speaking of moon dust, are those omni-wheels on that illustration? I can’t think of anything that would be less suited to use on the Moon.

  12. Sure, the components can be put together into a vacuum rated system, particularly if you put them inside the pressure vessel. But you can’t just drop some hardware on top of a Tesla skate and expect it to survive vacuum.

  13. Always wondered what kind of approvals, and from where, any kind of town, city, encampment, mining base, launch pad, rough road, underground labyrinth, subterranean (er.. sublunarean) tunnel/ node system, utility processing/ storage facility, etc., installed on the Moon, would be required from Earth (UN? home country only? international agencies that monitor launches, orbits? …) So, just toss all your gear in a launcher/lander and then start to set-up, excavate, install, commission, and go? I suppose the first base gets best location and unlimited freedom… or United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Moon version…)

  14. CyberTruck doesn’t have a skateboard. Unlike S/X/3/Y it’s a unibody exoskeleton design not a body on a skateboard (chassis-powertrain).

    Not that CT’s powertrain couldn’t be put in one specifically intended for the moon. Designed for vacuum, thermal management, moon dust.

  15. The small steps to ISRU and small habs is also O’Neill, not just the big Islands 3. I have no idea what Bezos thinks of Criswell, or if he has heard of him. He certainly knows of GEO Solar, directly from O’Neill.
    “Its benefits have been known for some time; in 2008, the Pentagon’s SBSP Study Group concluded that “space-based solar power does present a strategic opportunity that could significantly advance U.S. and partner security, capability, and freedom of action and merits significant further attention on the part of both the US Government and the private sector.” More recently, in 2016, when the Defense Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the State Department held a contest for the biggest ideas that could simultaneously advance diplomacy, development and defense, space solar power swept the awards.”-Why the new X-37 space plane mission is a big dealPeter GarretsonPoliticoMay 15, 2020, 5:45 AM CDT

  16. Bezos thinks we should, but he is not going to build one. His contribution to O’Neill colonies is the proverbial pony express into space, no different than Musk’s contribution to making humans a multi-planetary species.
    It will take a while for direct progress on their respective ultimate goals because they need a proverbial village to help and that is subject to the vicissitudes of commerce.

    I want all those things and more, but I understand most of it will take probably take centuries to occur if left to commerce to path find, there are much easier ways to make money. Despite what marketing says, it’s always just about money, the warm and fuzzy parts are usually just a convenient happenstance.

  17. Altho I am a lifelong libertarian, I consider myself a practical libertarian. Much of my practical understanding or action is based upon the rock solid Science that people are as crazy as they can possibly be. So, when I am on a local scale of activity, such as NASA projects, I do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Much of the time, anything but total disaster is appreciated. I always try to exempt Science from complaints about Mars, or anything for that matter. So, given for example that Ap 11 happened *before* O’Neill asked the big question, you have to take the good with the bad. But O’Neill’s main point is that the business of humans MUST leave the planet, all planets, behind forever. Far too big a project for gov, must pay back early to do. Space Solar. You know the drill. The business plan, “The High Frontier” is almost 50 years old. Any body besides Bezos and I want to make some bucks, have some fun, save at least one planet?

  18. What do you do when well defined specs dont exists for all the awesome future tech plans you desire. 
    What do you do when basic infrastructure to support feasible business models do not exists and there is no direct profit or near term profit to justify creating that basic infrastructure.  
    One may see no/little benefit to the govt paying first mover costs on a great many things with no obvious commercial benefit, but our modern civilization depends more on such exploration of those less traveled pathways than on the latest company selling the latest shiny toy. If govt acted anything like a business, we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are today.

  19. I agree. Both the motors and the battery pack are water cooled. How much of that would evaporate in vacuum? And, how much “anti freeze” would it require to prevent the water from freezing during the cold lunar night? And the water is cooled by air… but there is no air on the moon so the motors would have to be run at a fraction of the power at earth… Furthermore, since the cybertruck is not insulated, the heating would require enormous power, and you could not use a heat exchanger because there is no air to exchange the heat with…

    Not to mention the difficulty pressurizing the cabin. Would the enourmous flat front window withstand 1 atmosphere on the inside? The glass is probably about 3m2, which would equate to 30 metric tons (!) on the perimeter of the glass if you pressurize the cabin.

    No, you are 100% correct. The cybertryck is pretty far from being vacuum adapted…

  20. In my opinion Elon created cybertruck primary for mars and lunar exploration. At least that he had in mind, that is why it is so robust. It will still be good to usesell it on Earth, test it a few years and create revenue from it, but it will also be useful for Moon, Mars. That eliminates the need to design completely new vehicle and saves a lot of money.

  21. Hey, Musk’s other toys blow up during tests. I’ll watch a few Teslas burst in a vacuum. Would be pretty neat, ill bet. They’ll eventually get it right.

  22. “About twenty-five to thirty cybertrucks could be delivered to the moon with every SpaceX Starship.”

  23. I like purchase to spec rather than build to spec, but as a life long libertarian wish they would stop doing stupid stuff like Mars Direct/First/Only. Even *first boots* science Mars crewed is STUPID without lunar support.

  24. Thanx! A very complex problem, clearly, as Mars *mole* issues show. I just have a gut feeling that a big rock with a cable around *must* be better than, to use a phrase I will be borrowing from myself, “spinning your wheels”. Borrowed from the perhaps pivotal statement made around ~’90 to an important Mars person: “If you are not using extraterrestrial resources, you are spinning your wheels.” A few weeks later, Houston paper reported a “renegade” group of NASA engineers who were (gasp!) talking about the Moon.

  25. Look at the potential propellant users chart above, most or all are
    looking to attract NASA contracts. Without NA$A, the only current
    end consumer beyond near earth, this boat don’t float. 

    …as gov is so inherently inept at efficiency

    Don’t forget who makes everything for govt, they are effectively not allowed to make anything directly thanks to that long standing supposed truism. All i see is a wildly successful gimmick to funnel govt dollars to the private sector, be careful what you wish for.

  26. Well, that is what I said, but I think his Mars goal being way beyond NASA’s, “his own goals too”, is ill conceived, obviously not understanding O’Neill.

  27. The thing is, if you’re trying to tear up the scenery, rather than just move over it, you need some downward force, not just horizontal, or you’re not going to penetrate. You’re pretty much only going to get that with weight, or maybe by utilizing augers.

    The lunar surface starts out very low density on the surface, and rapidly gains in density until, a couple meters down, it’s almost solid. Removing the first meter shouldn’t be difficult, but gets pretty tough below that. You’re not going to be blasting, since that wastes volatiles. Early work can probably get by just accessing the soft stuff on the surface, though.

    After that, it may require boring closely spaced holes then ripping up sections using expanding grippers in the holes. It’s going to be interesting getting around and mining rubble pile asteroids, where the surface is just dirt and gravel with practically no gravity to even compact it.

  28. Just because Musk is interested in any place NASA is going, doesn’t mean his interest stops there.

    But I’m sure he’ll let some NASA astronauts hitch a ride on his Mars missions, if they pay, and don’t mind hanging around 22 months instead of 2 weeks.

  29. Retrofit a commercial vehicle to be Moon rated? Kinda like retrofitting Submarines to be Aircraft Carriers and we all know how well that worked out.

  30. Didn’t one of your previous posts quote Starship at 90,000kg to LEO and
    $2Mil per mission? Wouldn’t that put cost of propellant from earth to
    LEO at $23/kg instead of $4000/kg? Why would anyone spend $ to create
    infrastructure on the moon to produce propellant @$500/kg when you can
    get it from LEO @$23/kg.

    A lot of these separate visions do not paint an internally consistent model of the reality.

  31. I don’t really think the Tesla “skateboard” is vacuum rated. This is a serious issue when your batteries would swell and burst in vacuum, and your heat dissipation would be so compromised that all the components would have to be radically downrated.

  32. Actually, a study was performed indicating that you only need a sieve. Energy intensive (and expensive) heating or sublimation is not required. Particles have been smashed up to such an extent by solar and mechanical action that water holding grains exist separated from other regolith. Tests in labs confirmed this. A mechanical sieve operation needs one kilowatthour to sift a ton of materials with a 1-10% yield in water or (ox) depending on where you are on the surface of the moon (water is always above 1% so it is always economical). Not the megawatts needed in the article, prospecting is not really required (as water-grains exist everywhere at shallow depth, meaning less than a foot deep), and break even reached after first mission starting from the first customer.

  33. I’m not even willing to call NASA checkbook sustainable. Bezos checkbook, no prob! But seriously, NASA should stay out of areas that are profit potential, as gov is so inherently inept at efficiency that only pure Science or first boots(inherent Scientific advantages, I’m willing to stipulate), single shot, nobody else gonna pay projects are fruitful. If they need an also profitable service, they are doing the right thing (yes, you heard me say something good about a gov agency!) by just saying they will buy it. If O’Neill is correct, there is little beyond cislunar we need to consider economically, at the start. Certainly not Mars, as it is no longer even a long term settlement or industrial destination.

  34. More importantly, there are paying moon related contracts to be had from NASA and no near term Mars related contracts.
    The only sustainable money making opportunities beyond near earth orbit and in the near future is via NASA’s checkbook.

  35. “Duh! Silly artist does not know moon has no atmoshpere.”

    It may be economically viable to retrofit a mass produced vehicle with all the thermal management hardware, especially if you take into account the PR/Marketing value. Look at this from a customer perspective: buying a pickup that works on the Moon? Hell yeah! I doubt Musk would miss such a marketing opportunity.

  36. It’s obviously the Tesla Cybertruck used in this image. Doesn’t seem like it’s meant to be a literal depiction, but just a representation. It’s worth noting that the Cybertruck does uniquely have most off its structural strength in its hull, as opposed to its chassis like you’d expect for a regular vehicle. That might suggest that it’s guinea-pigging technologies for an off-world passenger vehicle, since such a vehicle would have to make use of a pressure vessel with a strong hull.

  37. This brings up a question about traction in low g, as on Moon. I *favor* drag lines, which require no traction(other than the rock’s the line is anchored by) over wheel or bulldozer traction, which is gained by adding mass to the vehicle. It is clear that drag lines are limited in mobility, but would be light, as tension structures, so easily repositioned. The question is whether there is a dramatic diminishing return in adding mass to gain traction, as g decreases, based upon the roughness of the path? Seems that jostling the mass back and forth over bumps takes energy based upon the traction mass, not weight as per g force. Yet it is only that weight that helps with traction, not the mass *directly*. Compare to very smooth surface, where only useful accelerations of this mass cost energy. Trying to visualize the factors here.

  38. So, I’m curious about your perspective, myself being a long time Space advocate. Are you thinking it is all a waste of money?

  39. Meanwhile Boeing can’t even get a passenger airliner right. I don’t see how all this will fly if well understood technologies are crashing and burning.

  40. The moon truck rendering is aerodynamic. So much fail.

    Heat dissipation is an issue that must be dealt with or the engine will melt. Also cold must be dealt with.

  41. Fully paid tourism is like Science, the actual money is from elsewhere, not direct productivity. Great if you have it!

  42. I do not see NASA interest in Mars beyond Science. Better stuff to do with money. So Musk has his own goals too, and seems to thinking about Moon now beyond cash to fund Mars, which brings up the fact that Mars has no profit path that we can see!

  43. Wouldn’t “Lunar Mining Outpost Using Toyota Prius C Bulldozers” make more sense?
    See NASA’s Robotic Mining Competition (Lunabotics 2020) for vehicles fit for the purpose.

  44. I always thought you could have rovers with a skirt like a hover craft to seal off the area under it, some sort of device to slowly churn the regolith and lamps to “bake” the water out of it for collection.

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