Early Industrialization of Mars

There have been other Mars Society Studies analyzing using Mars resources to make more efficient colonization. The first unmanned missions need to bring the solar panels and automated equipment to move the solar panels around. There is needs to be mining, excavating and other automated machines. There needs to be automated exploration equipment. We have literally only scratched the surface of Mars.

The total projected power needed to make a full load of propellant for a SpaceX Starship is around 16 gigawatts hours of Martian-produced power. This will take a megawatt of power to generate the fuel over two years. This will take 56000 square meters of solar panels which can be taken in one Super Heavy Starship.

There has been a tiny Mars rover that has used a few watts of power to generate a few grams of oxygen per hour. Oxygen is the main component of rocket fuel by mass. The power and equipment to make oxygen saves seven times the mass of bringing our own oxygen.

The mass that could be brought in the first Super Heavy Starship missions is 100 tons per Starship to the surface of Mars. This would require six to eight refueling flights in Earth orbit before a fully loaded Starship would fly to Mars.

Instead of solar power, a nuclear fission reactor could be sent. However, the current technology for a nuclear fission reactor is one that would weigh 210 tons per megawatt. This would take at least two Starships to send to Mars.

Commercial low-weight, flexible solar cell arrays have an installed mass of 2.0 kg/m2. The installed mass is driven primarily by the absorber material as opposed to the catalyst layers or ion exchange membrane. An estimated installed mass of 2.4 kg/m2 by assuming the absorber and housing components comprise 80% of the installed mass.

A fleet of five to ten Starships in 2026, could bring two megawatts of power in solar cell form and the equipment for mining icy dirt and other gear to make oxygen, water, methane, cement and plastics.

The Starships are made of Steel and could initially be left for fuel tanks to be filled and metal used for colonization.

SpaceX rapidly moving through the early phases of making oxygen, water, fuel and cement will make colonization far more efficient. SpaceX bringing Teslabots that only need electricity will rapidly accelerate industrialization.

The optimal path for industrialization is to get to point where more power systems can be made from Mars resources or where power systems brought from Earth can be made lighter.

Instead of bringing a megawatt in one Super Heavy Starship, we want to bring a gigawatt or more in 100 tons. Even if each Starship launch is $10 million to orbit, it still takes about ten mostly refueling launches to send one Starship to Mars. This is $100 million for the Mars launch plus the cost of the payload.

The first Mars produced enhanced power systems could be concentrated solar power. They would use Earth-produced power systems to set up the production of Mars cement, Mars steel and Mars glass and Mars fuel. The Earth transported construction equipment would built mirrors to concentrate weak Mars sunlight. This would then power a Sterling engine or some other simple concentrated solar power systems.

Other methods of bootstrapping Mars industry are needed. If we can make certain things on Mars but not others then what can we make that will help us to make more things.

Cement, steel, glass and mirrors and two megawatts of power could let us make a 100 megawatt concentrated solar farm in a year or two. The first mirrors could be used to increase the solar energy on the solar cells by eight times. Instead of having 2 megawatts from 43% of Earth based light, we concentrate Mars light to 3.5 times earth light and get up to seven megawatts from the solar cells that were brought from Earth.

More power means more energy to make more fuel, oxygen, water, cement, glass and steel.

Farming and Power on Mars

It is estimated about 200 square meters of growing area with 100 kilowatts of power per person is needed to grow food. A construction crew of 100 people would need 10 megawatts of power with 20,000 square meters of growing area for food production. If the growing areas are trays on four levels, the pressurized building area might need to be only 5,000 square meters, comparable to a football field. Structural metals and plastics from local Mars materials will be required rather quickly as the base and settlement grows. One-square-kilometer farm transferred to Mars (250 by 250 meters with four growing levels), could possibly support 5,000 vegetarians or about 2,500 people with some fish and meat production. This would need about 500 megawatts of power. Another 500 megawatts would be needed for propellant production.

We will want to boostrap more energy for when the humans arrive from Earth.

If we want to make a Tesla gigafactory on Mars with its supply chain then we would need 20,000 people. This would be about 10 gigawatts of power. Replacing humans with Teslabots would be more energy efficient in terms of less energy needed for food production and shelter.

SOURCES- Casey Handmer, Frontiers of Astronomy Space Science – Photovoltaics-Driven Power Production Can Support Human Exploration on Mars (Anthony J. Abel, Aaron J. Berliner, Mia Mirkovic, William D. Collins, Adam P. Arkin, Douglas S. Clark, Tony Muscatello- MArs Socierty
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com