With a tip of the hat to Scatman Crothers and the TV show Chico and the Man.
One of the first lessons that I had learned about backpacking was this: Pack it out. Trash, that is. In other words, the great outdoors is to be enjoyed responsibly. Unfortunately, that same principle is not being applied in space.
We not only have a plan to colonize space, we also have a plan to keep it clean.
Spent rockets and satellites are left in space as useless junk causing navigation hazards for everyone else. In the case of a jet engine that has reached its time limit, the engine is simply overhauled, and the clock is turned back to zero. Rocket engines cannot be overhauled in the same way. Too many micro fractures and other defects start to add up. The only thing to do with a spent rocket is to throw it away.
However, the old saying of one person's garbage is another person's treasure certainly can be applied here.
So, we plan to turn our trash into cash.
Continued below the fold...
Cleanup is always expensive. That's just a fact of life. If someone wants to start a business, but cannot afford to clean up after themselves, they should not be in business. It's as simple as that. We all have a right to start any business we want; we do not have the right to trash the place in the name of said business.
We will certainly practice what we preach.
Our spent rockets, specifically the OTV and GTV rockets, will become useless one day, and so we need to think of ways to deal with this reality.
We propose to still throw the rockets away, but do it in a manner that will be useful as well as efficient. The OTVs and GTVs will be refueled one last time and be sent on a one-way mission to the planets and beyond. The very last of the fuel is used to divert the rocket to crash into the sun.
One OTV with a full Skylon payload (14,742 kg = 32,500 lbs) yields a delta V of 3.262 kps. Obviously, the less the payload weighs, the faster it can go. For example, a 4,536 kg (10,000 lbs) payload yields 5.779 kps.
One GTV with a full Skylon payload yields 10.109 kps. A full LTV (3 GTVs tied together) gives an astonishing 13.106 kps! We are confident that any planetary scientist would be salivating at these numbers.
For example, a piloted flyby mission to Venus is now very easy to design. Or how about a pilot mission to Mars? The LTV can produce the necessary delta V needed to get there. A GTV is enough to get back along with a booty of Mars rocks.
Un-piloted rockets can go even farther. A stop-over at an asteroid is now possible and feasible. Jupiter or Saturn, anyone? How about the Oort Cloud?
The possibilities are virtually endless. As stated before, scientists will have their imaginations unleashed when they see our delta V numbers.
The OTV and GTV frames would make excellent space telescopes. The engine and fuel tanks would be stripped and replaced with the primary mirror, other sensors, and their mechanisms. Since the OTVs and GTVs are 13 ft in diameter, it can easily house a 10 ft diameter mirror (for comparison, the mirror on the Hubble Space Telescope is 2.4 m = 7.9 ft). With several of these telescopes in space, a very nice astronomical interferometer can be created.
(Of course, we intend to fly every space telescope for free. We will place the telescope in the proper orbit and fly maintenance missions to the telescope once a year. This will be one of the many ways we give back to our community, pay it forward, etc. It is our hope that this will help spur a robust industry for these telescopes. You build it, we'll fly it. Personally, I'm looking forward to the pictures!)
Interferometers can be set up at the 3 equidistant points in the Earth-Moon Lagrange system or the Sun-Earth System (specifically L2, L4, and L5). With an interferometer the size of earth's orbit, the universe will surely give up some of her more cherished secrets.
The most obvious place to put space junk is in a museum. I jest, but there is an element of truth: it is a moral imperative to put the first lunar lander that we build into the museum. So should the space suits worn by the 1st astronauts to get back on the lunar surface. And the OTV that returned the astronauts (and lunar material) back from the Moon. And the first CM-OUV that we fly. And the first Skylon of the fleet when it retires after 200 spaceflights. The list goes on.
The other retiring Skylons will go to other museums, free of charge, of course. It would be such a high honor to see a used Skylon being proudly displayed at the Smithsonian.
Recycling, Reducing, and Responsibility
Another way to give back to our community is to help clean up our neighborhood. This includes the earth as well as outer space.
On earth, we will use composts to recycle organic material. For example, when garbage is brought back from orbit in the Logistics Modules, we will compost all food waste.
We will also purchase as many solar panels as we can get to create a solar farm. We would reduce our consumption of electricity, and reduce our burden on the state.
Water is another commodity that we will need copious amounts of, but is at the same time a scarcity in the desert of New Mexico, with climate change not helping one bit. We do not wish to extract water from the already low and once mighty Rio Grande River. We instead plan to ship it in, via water pipeline from flooded areas, or by other means (we are currently studying the idea of using newly designed airships to carry the water!).
Satellites are placed into orbit, then left there to die. Afterwards, the metallic hulk remains, cluttering up the place. At first, it was a nuisance. Nowadays, it's become downright hazardous!
As still another way to give back to our community, we will try to dispose of as many errant satellites and other space junk as we can. Here's how we'll do it.
Our GTVs can reach Geosynchronous Earth Orbit and every point in between. So we'll fly a GTV to a satellite, capture it, and provide enough delta V to nudge it out of orbit. If we do this correctly, the satellite's orbit will eventually degrade enough for it to fall into the atmosphere and burn up. The numbers are difficult to guesstimate, but we think at least 5 satellites can be disposed of in this manner per flight. If we can do this once per week, that's 250 pieces of space junk that we can get rid of every year!
Of course if the satellite is valuable enough (such as Vanguard I which is still orbiting the earth), then we can always capture it and place it in the museum!
We have finally completed our journey. We have not only found a way to get to space and on to the Moon fairly inexpensively, but we are able to make a profit to boot.
At the same time, we have decided to be good corporate citizens, as well as good earth and space citizens. It is truly the only way to conduct business.
Leave the place the way you found it, as I was taught so long ago.
Now that our journey is complete, is there anything more that we can do? Shouldn't we build a space station that spins so that the adverse effects of prolonged weightlessness vanishes? Or how about exploratory missions to all the hot spots on the moon? Or how about (finally) using engines that take advantage of all the He3 lying around on the lunar surface? As one commentator here on DKos said, "...it will give us the solar system."
It surly will.
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:
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.