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Please begin with an informative title:

Space exploration is a great aspiration for the human race. However, these endeavors are fraught with enormous costs. Up to now, only major governments could afford such flights of fancy. Note the use of the words up to now.

My favorite saying in all of rocketry is "no bucks, no Buck Rogers." It was in the book and movie "The Right Stuff" by Tom Wolfe (absolutely the best book about us flyers ever). It is my favorite saying because it encapsulates what is the immovable object that impedes a flourishing space program: money.

Another saying along the same lines that appeared in the same book (and movie) is the answer to the question of what makes rockets fly. "Funding" was the rejoinder. So true, so true. That book sure did have a lot of right stuff in it.

So without a firm commitment to continuously fund an expensive (and dangerous) program, we are all left instead to ponder what could have been. Since governments have failed to step up to the plate, it is time for industry to step in and lead the way. The only way that can happen, however, is if industry has the ability to make a profit from space. So far, that has been the great eluder.

Up to now.

We intend to (finally) fold everything that has been discussed in this diary series into one neat package. We will show how to generate an enormous amount of money, relatively quickly, that will pay a 500% Return On Investment for investors, and leave us with enough cash to build the LEO space station and the Lunar Surface station.

Specifically, we will show how to bring back material that can only be found on the moon, that is very easy to mine, and will sell for the equivalent price of diamonds (hence our affectionately named "lunar diamond" for this substance). Of course, the more of this substance we bring back, the less it will sell for, eventually bottoming out. Even at the bottomed out price, it would still be worth its weight in gold (therefore turning Lunar Diamond into Lunar Gold).

Which begs the decidedly Keynesian question:

If the moon where made of gold, would we go get it?
We at NMSTARG believe that the answer is yes, provided that we can find enough customers to buy this rare commodity, as is true in most business ventures.

So what is this secret stuff that can only be found on the moon and sells for the price of diamond, you may ask? Great question! Of course, the answer to that great question is...

continued below the fold...


You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

(Note: Before we begin, the reader needs to understand that the dollar figures presented in this missive are still in flux. As we wait for R&D to come back with the final figures, we present this diary with the dollar figures that we currently have. As the figures update, so will this diary. Thanks.)


We need to make some quick cash so that we can pay back investors and build our space station and moon base. We have a plan that involves sending humans to the moon, and returning with about 9,000 pounds of moon rocks and dirt. We then want to sell the lunar material for a tidy profit.

Yes, you read that correctly. The secret ingredient that sells for the price of diamond, and can only be found on the moon is... moon rocks.

Price of Lunar Material
The price per carat of lunar rocks and dirt varies wildly, depending on how they arrived on Earth.

Lunar material ejected from the moon during cratering activity that lands on the earth is called lunar meteorites, and they sell for over $1,000 per carat.

As part of the Lunar X Prize, some companies are trying for a sample return. The going price seems to be about $2,000 per carat.

However, there is evidence for even far higher prices. A small amount of lunar material brought back by the Apollo astronauts was stolen. A judge needed to determine the value of the material. The conclusion was $10,000 per carat (1970 USD), which would be over $40,000 per carat today.

As we can see, this material can sell for an enormous cost, thus helping to offset the other enormous cost that is the space program.

We want to mount a Mission to the Moon. We will carry the parts to LEO, where it will be assembled. A crew will then board and embark on what will really become a truly historic voyage.


Flight Order
We will use an OTV to get the crew home. A second OTV will include a Lunar Lander Kit. This vehicle will (obviously) land on the moon. The 2 vehicles will be docked and the entire stack placed onto a LTV.

A smaller CM, called a Lunar Crew Module (LCM) is used for these missions. These CMs are lighter than a regular CM (and hence, less elbow room), and so will be able to transport back lunar material.

Six Z-1 Spacesuits will be attached to the side of the LCM on the OTV Lander, and 2 Z-1 Spacesuits will be attached to the side of the LCM attached to the Return OTV.

The OTV Lander will have attached to its side 4 containers that the astronauts will fill with lunar dirt. This is what will pay for the mission.

Support vehicles and other structures will need to be added to help assemble the stack. Astronauts will have to conduct EVAs. The whole thing should take about 6 months to complete, and will consists of flying the Skylon spacecraft from the Spaceport twice a week for about 6 months, or 50 flights. We will fly to the moon twice, collecting lunar material both times.

All 50 flights are listed below.

  01      01     OUV-CM-Airlock
  01      02     SPM
  02      03     OWT-PRM
  02      04     Cargo Pallet: OTV Lander Kit, (4) LGC, L5Sat-SRB, L2Sat-SRB
  03      05     OTV-LCM
  03      06     OTV-LCM
  04      07     GTV LH2 Tank
  04      08     GTV LH2 Tank
  05      09     GTV LH2 Tank
  05      10     GTV LO2 Tank + RL10-B
  06      11     GTV LO2 Tank + RL10-B
  06      12     GTV LO2 Tank + RL10-B
  07      13     OUV-CM-Airlock
  07      14     SPM
  08      15     LO2PM
  08      16     LO2PM
  09      17     LO2RT
  09      18     LO2RT
  10      19     LO2RT
  10      20     LO2RT
  11      21     LO2RT
  11      22     LO2RT
  12      23     LO2RT
  12      24     LO2RT
  13      25     OUV-CM-Airlock
  13      26     SPM

Flights 27 - 50 are a mirror image of flight 03 - 26. Hence, the second lunar flight is assembled in 12 weeks instead of 13.

Each flight will have only 9 different payloads on any given flight. An image of each payload is below.

The Skylon spacecraft delivers all the pieces into LEO, where they will need to be assembled using Portable Remote Manipulator arms and crew EVAs.

The OUV-CM-Airlock combination becomes a temporary mini space station, where the assembly crew will live while they work on the lunar stack. The crew and equipment will be rotated out every 5 weeks.


Flight To The Moon
Once everything is assembled, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

The Return OTV stays docked to the OUV-CM-Airlock assembly until the lunar crew arrives. The lunar crew then undocks with the Airlock, and docks with the OTV Lander on the lunar stack. Once the crew is aboard, the LTV fires its 3 engines for the Trans Lunar Injection (TLI) orbit.

After a 5.5 day trip, the crew finally arrives in Lunar Polar Orbit. The Return OTV/OTV Lander combination then separates from the LTV. They now have 18 days to land and return to orbit before the moon lines up again for the 4 day return trip home.

The OTV Lander undocks and lands, and the astronauts take a walk on the moon (I believe that these occasions will be a hell of a lot more dramatic and exciting than the way I just described them here).

The astronauts then proceed to fill the 4 containers attached to the side of the OTV. Once the containers are filled, the OTV Landers lifts off and docks with the Return OTV. The 4 lunar soil containers are transfered to the Return OTV, and the Return OTV undocks with the OTV Lander. The Return OTV then returns to Earth. Skylon spacecraft return the crew home, and another Skylon brings the lunar booty back to the Spaceport. Only then will the champaign bottles be opened...


The money needed to accomplish our adventures will not be cheap; however, it will at the same time, not be that overly expensive.

There are really 2 major sticking points at this time: The lack of informed consent with our preferred location, Spaceport America in NM; and the lack of investors to continue developing the Skylon spacecraft.

The Spaceport is the biggest sticking point to our plan. Because informed consent does not look like it is going to pass, Spaceport America is rendered useless. So, we plan to purchase it from the state of NM!

   $200M Spaceport America acquisition
   $100M 2nd 10,000 ft reinforced concrete runway
   $200M Payload Integration Facility
   $100M Skylon Maintenance Facility
   $100M Astronaut Training Facility
   $100M Food Preparation Facility
   $100M Support Aircraft [(1) C-17 cargo aircraft, (3) H-3 helicopters, (1) Learjet 45]
   $100M Support Aircraft Hanger Facility
   $100M Power Generation Facility (Solar panels used to generate all electrical power)
   $300M Propellant Storage Facility (includes LH2, LO2, LHe, LN2, JP-4, and Jet-A1)
Also, in the same vein, we will purchase Reaction Engines, Ltd (REL), so that we can get the Skylon spacecraft developed and in production.

We will hire approximately 1,000 people in the beginning, eventually hiring 3,000 when operating at full capacity. Each employee will have a generous compensation package that will include insurance (including health, vision, dental, life, etc.) provided for free. We estimate this comes to about $10,000 per employee per month, or $10M/month.

The breakdown for the startup costs are as follows:

    3       $750M      $2,250M        Skylon Spacecraft
    5         $30M        $150M        OUV
    5         $30M        $150M        CM
    5         $20M        $100M        Airlock
    1         $75M          $75M        SPM
    2         $20M          $40M        OWT
    2         $10M          $20M        PRM
    2           $1M           $2M        Cargo Pallet
    2           $3M           $6M        OTV lander Kit
    8           $1M           $8M        Lunar Diamond Carrier
    4         $80M        $320M        OTV
    4         $17M          $68M        Lunar Exploration Kit
    6         $30M        $180M        GTV LH2 Tank
    6         $30M        $180M        GTV LO2 Tank + RL10-B Rocket Engine
    4         $50M        $200M        LO2PM
    2           $5M         $10M        L5 Satellite
    2           $5M         $10M        L2 Satellite
    4           $2M           $8M        SRB
   16         $30M        $480M        LO2RT
   25          $8M        $200M        Z-1 Spacesuit
    1     $1,500M     $1,500M        Spaceport America purchase and build up
    6         $10M          $60M        Payroll
    6         $10M          $60M        Business Expenses (utilities, insurance, etc.)
   50         $22M     $1,106M        Skylon Spaceflight
    1     $2,500M     $2,500M        Reaction Engines, Ltd purchase
    6         $30M        $180M        Previous 6 months of operations
    6         $22M        $133M        Skylon Flight Test
    1          $5M            $5M        Cash On Hand
Therefore, the startup costs for our little adventure is ten billion dollars. In comparison, NASA spent almost twenty billion dollars last year alone.

Since each soil container holds around 1,000 kg, we will bring back over 4,000 kg (over 9,000 lbs) of lunar diamonds to sell. The profit that we make is as follows:

Batch         Price                     Weight       Total Price
1st Batch:  $40,000/carat   at     600 lbs = $54,480M
2nd Batch: $10,000/carat   at  1,200 lbs = $27,240M
3rd Batch:   $2,500/carat   at  2,400 lbs = $13,620M
4th Batch:      $625/carat   at  4,800 lbs =  $6,810M
Last Batch:     $125/carat   at  4,773 lbs =  $2,708M

Average Price: $2,493/carat

Investors will get a 500% Return on Investment (ROI). Therefore, they will earn a total of $60,000M. Our company will recieve the difference, or about $45,000M.

This will be more than enough money to complete our dream of a viable, robust, and profitable space commercialization program.


The initial investment of $10B will be cover the following expenses every fiscal year:

$2,500M Reaction Engines, Limited (REL) Acquisition
   $200M Spaceport America Acquisition
   $300M Spaceport America Upgrades and Additions
   $750M Skylon #1
   $736M Lunar Exploration Equipment

   $500M Spaceport America Upgrades and Additions
   $750M Skylon #2
   $736M Lunar Exploration Equipment

   $500M Spaceport America Upgrades and Additions
   $750M Skylon #3
   $736M Lunar Exploration Equipment

   $300M Payroll and Business Operations
   $133M Flight Testing
$1,106M 50 Skylon flights

$60,000M Investor payback at 500% ROI
$11,247M 1 year Payroll and Business Operations
 $1,000M (2) Skylon Spacecraft

$11,247M 1 year Payroll and Business Operations

$11,247M 1 year Payroll and Business Operations

$11,247M 1 year Payroll and Business Operations

These expenses will be met by the revenue generated in the future (to be discussed in a future diary).


In Closing
As we have demonstrated, funding is what make rockets fly. Except now, we have made enought money to make the investors very happy, and we have enough to get our infrastructure in space.

After all of this, we will need to continue selling space services for a profit so that we can continue to keep our toehold in space.

Of course, that's a story for another day.


A version of this diary was cross-posted at NMSTARG.


The DKos diary series so far:

  1. Overview
  2. History, Part I
  3. History, Part II
  4. Proposal
  5. Space Port
  6. Space Plane
  7. Space Stations
  8. Space Ships
  9. Recharge and Resupply
  10. Lunar Ships
  11. Lunar Base
  12. Lunar Propellant
  13. Startup
  14. Revenue
  15. Advanced Systems
FULL DISCLOSURE: I work for the New Mexico Space Technology Applications Research Group (NMSTARG), a commercial space flight venture, which in its current form exists as an unfinished technical paper. NMSTARG is not affiliated with any of the businesses that were discussed in these posting. These diaries exists as a way for the DKos community to get a first look at our research, and to ask said community for any technical and non-technical (just as important!) feedback. The paper provides information on how to make a profit in space, detailing the infrastructure that will be needed and all of the associated costs involved. As such, we hope that it eventually attracts the attention of investors, where the paper then becomes the technical portion of a space-related business plan.
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