Thursday, May 9, 2019
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
by Marcel F. Williams
“I’m taking nothing off the table, and we’re not compromising safety. Anything we don’t need to do we can delay. There’s future launches, there’s future things we can test, but right now, how do we get boots on the moon in 2024?” (NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine)
It is now a directive of the Executive Branch of the United States for American astronauts to return to the surface of the Moon by 2024. But the type of transportation infrastructure developed for a US return to the lunar surface could largely determine whether, or not, America will strategically and economically dominate the Moon, cis-lunar space, and the rest of the solar system.
It is estimated that between 100 million to one billion metric tons (tonnes) of water ice may exist at the Moon's north and south poles. Exploiting polar ice deposits on the lunar surface for the production of rocket fuel is one of the principal arguments for returning to the Moon. Lunar hydrogen and oxygen propellant would make it much easier to send humans to Mars. And lunar propellant and propellant dept technology could also give astronauts easy access to the surfaces of Mercury and Jupiter's Galilean moon, Callisto, two additional worlds that could be potentially colonized by humans someday.
Liquid oxygen comprises nearly 86% of the mass of LOX/LH2 propellant and nearly 89% of the mass of water. So even if there were no ice deposits on the Moon, the extraction of oxygen directly from the lunar regolith would provide humans with an almost endless supply of oxygen for utilization as propellant.
So any reusable spacecraft developed to return humans to the surface of the Moon should also be inherently designed to utilize potential lunar propellant resources-- once such lunar resources become available. But until lunar ice and regolith resources can be exploited hydrogen and oxygen, or water, will have to be launched into cis-lunar space from the Earth's surface.
The primary purpose for a Lunar Gateway at NRHO (Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit) is to make it simple and easy to routinely visit the lunar surface from that delta-v bridging location. Yet NASA is currently advocating a highly complex and inherently more dangerous transportation infrastructure to operate out of the NRHO Gateway. NASA's current gateway transportation architecture requires two or three different spacecraft in order to transport astronauts on a simple round trip between NRHO and the lunar surface. And the elements are not even completely reusable.
|Notional Lockheed Martin reusable lunar landing spacecraft on the lunar surface (Credit: Lockheed Martin)|
Lockheed Martin, on the other hand, has proposed a simple-- single stage-- spacecraft that can operate out of NRHO. And its completely reusable. The Lockheed Martin's reusable spacecraft concept is derived from the ULA's future Centaur V and ACES rocket technologies. These cryogenic oxygen and hydrogen fueled upper stages will be used in the ULA' new Vulcan rocket system-- which is supposed to go into operation in 2021.
Lockheed Martin's Notional Reusable Crewed Lunar Landing Vehicle
Propellant: 40 tonnes of LOX/LH2
Inert Weight: 22 tonnes
Engines: Four RL-10 derived engines
Maximum delta-v capability: 5.0 km/s
Maximum number of crew: Four
Two of the 22 tonne Lockheed Martin lunar landing vehicles, which I will refer to as the R-LL (Reusable Lunar Lander), could easily be deployed to LEO by a single Block I SLS launch within the 8.4 meter (7.5 meter internal) payload fairing equipped with an extra barrel section. The notional lunar spacecraft, however, would have to be fueled by propellant depots. But propellant depots would be essential if NASA is really serious about exploiting lunar resources to produce hydrogen and oxygen. So there's no logical reason not to develop cryogenic depots now!
The optimal propellant depot design would be a-- water depot-- that simply uses solar electricity to convert liquid water into hydrogen and oxygen though electrolysis and then into liquid hydrogen and oxygen through cryo-refrigeration. However, much simpler depots could be directly derived from the propellant tanks of existing upper stages and could utilize NASA's new helium or nitrogen cryorefrigeration technology.
Propellant could be easily transferred to a spacecraft by docking the spacecraft to the propellant depot, automatically connecting the spacecraft fuel hoses, and then firing thrusters to create simulated gravity through acceleration. Useful acceleration for propellant transfer can be as little as 0.00004 g.
Both water and propellant could be easily deployed to LEO and NRHO by commercial launch vehicles. The Falcon Heavy should be able to deploy more than 15 tonnes of propellant to NRHO and the future Vulcan Heavy rocket systems should be capable of routinely deploying more than six tonnes of propellant to NRHO per launch. Monthly propellant launches by each system could deploy enough liquid hydrogen and oxygen to NRHO for at least six R-LL round trips to the lunar surface per year. NASA only sent astronauts to the moon six times from 1969 to 1972 during the entire Apollo program.
|Lightweight, disposable, propellant tank derived from Centaur 3 LOX tank capable of storing 26 tonnes of liquid oxygen (Credit: ULA)|
Much larger depots, directly derived from the ULA's Centaur V or ACES upper stage rockets, could be deployed to LEO with the ability to self deploy themselves to NRHO. Such vehicles could store up to 68 tonnes of LOX/LH2 propellant. So Falcon Heavy and Vulcan Heavy launches to NRHO could transfer their propellant directly to the large depots for long term storage. Reusable ACES tankers could also transport propellant originally deposited by commercial launchers to LEO to NRHO. This could allow technology such as Boeing's Phantom Express to continuously deploy propellant to LEO that could later be exported to NRHO.
Total mass of a water or propellant that can be deployed to LEO via daily launch of a single Phantom Express space plane:
Daily - 1.36 to 2.27 tonnes
Monthly - 40.8 to 68.1 tonnes
Yearly - 496.4 to 828.6 tonnes
Yearly amount of water or propellant that could then be transported by reusable ACES spacecraft to NRHO by a single Phantom Express space plane: 200 to 330 tonnes
Once lunar water and propellant are being manufactured on the lunar surface then the R-LL could also be used as a reusable lunar tanker. Simply replacing the crew transport module with a water tank, a single R-LL tanker could transport more than 40 tonnes of water to NRHO from the lunar surface. And after 12 round trips, a single R-LL tanker could deploy more than 480 tonnes of water to NRHO before its RL-10 derived engines would have to be replaced.
Of course, propellant depots deployed to both LEO and NRHO would also make it easy for reusable spacecraft to travel between LEO and NRHO. So an Orion/ACES spacecraft could eliminate the need of using a super heavy lift vehicle to transport astronauts to NRHO.
Under NASA's current scenario, billions of dollars would be spent developing three lunar elements with one or two of the expensive elements having-- no long term future-- as far as the pioneering of the Moon and the rest of the solar system is concerned. The complexity of a three stage vehicle also enhances the risk to astronauts. And it delays the-- inevitable development-- of propellant depots, a technology that is essential for the exploitation of lunar propellant resources.
So, under the scenario presented here, the propellant depot and reusable spacecraft architecture designed to return astronauts to the Moon would give NASA and America's launch companies almost complete strategic and economic dominance over cis-lunar space by 2025. And NASA could have astronauts on the surface of the Moon at the south lunar pole before then end of 2024.
SLS and Commercial Launch Scenario for Returning Astronauts to the Lunar Surface by 2024
SLS Block I: Uncrewed test launch of Orion/SM/ICPS to DRO (Distant Retrograde Orbit)
SLS Block I: Crewed launch of Orion/SM/ICPS on a trans lunar injection lunar flyby.
Commercial Launch: Propulsion and Power Bus deployed to LEO for self deployment to NRHO
Commercial Launch: Remaining Gateway elements deployed and assembled LEO
Commercial Launch: Commercial Crew launch to inspect the Gateway before it is deployed to NRHO later in the year
SLS Block I + ICPS upper stage: Two fully fueled ICPS or Centaur V upper stages, or a combination of both are deployed to LEO for a docking rendezvous with the Gateway at LEO. The two boosters transport the Gateway to NRHO (More Gateway component mass can be transported to NRHO if water for radiation shielding is transported to the Gateway later by commercial launchers)
Commercial Launch: Two FlexCraft vehicles launched to NRHO Gateway
Commercial Launch: Beginning of commercial launches of water and other supplies to NRHO Gateway
(Last use of RS-25 engines from the Space Shuttle legacy)
SLS Block I: Crewed launch of Orion/SM/ICPS or Orion/SM/Centaur V to NRHO Gateway
Commercial Launch: Vulcan/Centaur launch of ACES propellant depot to LEO
Commercial Launch: First commercial launches of liquid oxygen tankers to LEO
Commercial Launch: First commercial launches of liquid hydrogen tankers to LEO
(New RS-25 engines now being produced and utilized)
SLS Block I: Two R-LL reusable spacecraft launched to LEO utilizing commercial propellant depots at LEO to redeploy to NRHO. Both vehicles are initially used to deploy robotic vehicles to the lunar surface for sample returns. One R-LL goes to the north lunar pole. The second R-LL goes to the south lunar pole.
SLS Block I: Crewed launch of Orion/SM/ICPS or Orion/SM/Centaur V or Orion/SM/EUS to NRHO Gateway
Three members of the Orion crew boards one of the R-LL spacecraft for the first human mission to the south lunar pole. Three other crew members remain at the NRHO Gateway to serve as an emergency rescue team in case the first vehicle experiences a serious malfunction while on the lunar surface.
Commercial Launch: Vulcan/Centaur Launch of ACES depot to LEO to self deploy to NRHO
Commercial Launch: Beginning of commercial deployment of liquid oxygen tankers to NRHO
Commercial Launch: Beginning of commercial deployment of liquid hydrogen tankers to NRHO
Commercial Launch: Vulcan/Centaur launch of reusable Orion/ACES to LEO for crew transport between LEO and NRHO using propellant depots
Launch Vehicles that could be used to help return humans to the surface of the Moon
SLS Block IB: 110 tonnes to LEO (operational 2024)
SLS Block I + ICPS upper stage: 95 tonnes to LEO (operational in 2020)
SLS Block I : 70 tonnes to LEO (operational in 2020)
Falcon Heavy: 63.8 tonnes to LEO (currently operational)
Vulcan Centaur Heavy: 34.9 tonnes to LEO (operational 2023)
Delta IV Heavy: 28.4 tonnes to LEO (currently operational)
Vulcan Centaur: 27.5 tonnes to LEO (operational 2021)
Upper Stages that could be deployed to LEO by an SLS Block I Launch
ICPS: Total mass: 30.7 tonnes; empty mass: 3.49; propellant mass: 27.2 tonnes (currently operational)
Centaur V: Total mass: ~ 46 tonnes; empty mass: ~5 tonnes; propellant mass: 41 tonnes (operational 2021)
ACES: Total mass: ~ 73.5 tonnes; empty mass: ~ 5.5 tonnes; propellant mass: 68 tonnes (operational 2023)
EUS: Total mass: 140 tonnes; empty mass: 15 tonnes; propellant mass: 125 tonnes (operational 2024)
With NASA's new super heavy lift capability, America will be able to deploy large and heavy structures (up to 110 tonnes in mass) to LEO with a single launch. This should enable NASA and private space companies to deploy huge reusable spacecraft with crewed interplanetary capability to LEO. Single launches of the SLS will also be able to deploy enormous microgravity and artificial gravity space habitats to LEO with pressurized volumes greatly exceeding that of the International Space Station.
With its propellant depot architecture, reusable ACES spacecraft working alone or in pairs could transport at least 40 to 80 tonnes of payload from LEO to practically anywhere within cis-lunar space. An reusable EUS that could utilize propellant depots would have substantially more capability.
Cargo landing vehicles directly derived from the notional R-LL vehicle should be able to land more than 40 tonnes of payload on the surface of the Moon.
Finally, by using commercial spacecraft to reach LEO, a propellant depot architecture could allow astronauts and tourist to easily travel between NRHO and LEO. This would make it unnecessary to launch astronauts to NRHO aboard a super heavy lift vehicle that is only infrequently used to launch passengers. At the Gateway, single stage reusable vehicles could be used to travel between the lunar surface and NRHO. And suddenly private commercial space tourism could expand beyond LEO-- all the way to the practically any place on the surface of the Moon. And a new economic age of space travel will have begun!
Links and References
Realistic Near-Term Propellant Depots: Implementation of aCritical Spacefaring Capability
Status of Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) for Gateway
ACES Stage Concept: Higher Performance, NewCapabilities, at a Lower Recurring Cost
ULA's Tory Bruno (Twitter)
A Study of CPS Stages for Missions beyond LEO
Status of Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) for Gateway
ACES Stage Concept: Higher Performance, NewCapabilities, at a Lower Recurring Cost
ULA's Tory Bruno (Twitter)
A Study of CPS Stages for Missions beyond LEO
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
|Notional regolith bag covered Kevlar biosphere and bio-torus next to two solar powered cylindrical SLS propellant tank technology derived lunar regolith habitats on top of a microwave sintered lunar outpost floor.|
NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) scheduled to go into operation by 2020 or 2021. But large cargo landing vehicles are going to be required in order to utilize the SLS for the deployment of lunar outposts habitats. Large multilevel pressurized habitats derived from SLS propellant tank technology could be deployed to the lunar surface on top of cargo landing vehicles designed to fit within a 10 meter in diameter SLS payload fairing. Such multilevel habitats for the lunar surface could be 8.4 meters in diameter, with two to four levels available for habitation. The average apartment in the US provides approximately 82 meters of floor area. With each 8.4 meter in diameter level providing more than 55 square meters of floor area, a single multilevel SLS deployed lunar habitat could provide lunar astronauts with 105 to 210 square meters of habitation floor area.
|X-Ray of notional SLS propellant tank derived Lunar Regolith Habitat|
However, substantially larger lunar habitats would require the deployment of inflatable structures.
|X-Ray of notional regolith bag shielded biosphere on the lunar surface (Credit: NASA)|
|Inflatable torus extraterrestrial habitat (Credit: NASA, 1961)|
Diameter relative to the Earth: 27.3%
Surface area relative to the Earth: 7.4% (Land area not covered by water only comprises ~ 29% of the Earth's surface)
Surface gravity: 0.17g
Regolith depth: 2 to 8 meters
Annual amount of cosmic radiation on the Lunar surface during the solar minimum - 38 Rem
Annual amount of cosmic radiation on the Lunar surface during the solar maximum - 11 Rem
(Maximum amount of radiation allowed for radiation workers on Earth per year - 5 Rem)
(Maximum amount of radiation allowed for adult female during nine months of pregnancy -)
The biodome and the upper and outer exterior of the bio-torus could be covered with regolith bags that are either 2.5 meters or 5 meters in thick, depending on what level of radiation protection is desired for the habitat. At least, 10 centimeters of lunar regolith is required to protect humans from the cell killing heavy nuclei component of cosmic radiation. Thermal fluctuations of the lunar surface may also require as little as 10 centimeters of lunar regolith. Assuming an average regolith density of about 1.5 grams per cubic centimeter, at least 60 centimeters of lunar regolith would be required to protect the habitat from micrometeorites.
Its relatively easy to shield habitats and even humans in pressure suits from the heavy ion component of cosmic radiation. But most cosmic ray particles are composed of the smallest ionized atoms: protons (85%) and alpha particles (ionized helium atoms) which are much more difficult to shield against. Most protons and alpha particles streak harmlessly though the vacuous space between the atoms of the human body. But the relentless rain of these cosmic ray components inevitably results in impacts upon our body tissues.
On average, humans receive about 620 mrem per year of radiation due to a combination of sources from both cosmic and terrestrial radiation sources. The maximum recommended radiation exposure for a pregnant woman is 50 mrem per month which comes very close to the average radiation exposure that humans on Earth experience in a year.
The maximum level of radiation exposure for radiation workers on Earth is 5 Rem per year. And that would require approximately 2.5 meters of regolith shielding. But the maximum level of radiation exposure allowed for a woman during the term of her pregnancy is just 0.5 Rem. So lunar regolith shielding would probably have to be increased to 5 meters (the same level of radiation shielding provided for humans by the depth of the Earth's atmosphere). Inflated with an Earth-like atmospheric pressure, biospheres and bio-tori could easily support the weight of 5 meters of regolith.
Of course, there would be no shortage of available regolith on the surface of the Moon. Just one hectare of regolith on the lunar surface could provide between 20,000 to 80,000 cubic meters of shielding material (2 million to 8 million cubic meters per square kilometer) for large pressurized habitats. And the excavation and deposition of lunar regolith and even the production of regolith bags could be done by robots teleoperated by personal employed on the surface of the Earth.
During solar minimum conditions, the maximum radiation exposure on the lunar surface can exceed 3000 mrem per month. A hardened pressure suit designed to protect against the heavy nuclei component of cosmic radiation could reduce general cosmic radiation exposure by two thirds. But even 1000 mrem (one Rem) per month would exceed annual radiation levels for radiation workers in less than six months. Pregnant lunar colonist would probably have to remain inside the protective confines of their habitat during nine months of pregnancy. But even if lunar colonist spent only 10% of their time outside of pressurized habitats (less than 2 Rem of annual exposure within radiation hardened pressure suits ), that would still avail them to more than 16 hours a week of EVA time on the lunar surface. But I seriously doubt if most lunar colonist will spend more than 5% of their time outside of the comfort of their lunar habits.
So it seems likely that Lunar colonist will spend at least 90 to 95% of their time on the Moon within the confines of pressurized habitats. So living on the Moon will mostly be about living within the protective confines of pressurized habitats that are also designed to protect its inhabitants from the dangers of micrometeorites, extreme thermal fluctuations, and excessive radiation exposure.
So if future Lunarians are going to have to spend the overwhelming majority of their time-- indoors, such pressurized habitats should be as comfortably-- spacious-- as possible. Once large SLS propellant tank technology derived habitats are on the lunar surface, much larger (inflatable) habitats could be deployed by the SLS.
|X-Ray of 40 meter in diameter lunar biosphere surround by two bio-tori|
A second SLS Block I launch could deploy five 3 meter in diameter and 3 meter high airlocks: one to be connected to the bottom of the biosphere and two each to be connected the bottoms of the two bio-tori on opposite sides. Six 3 meter in diameter expandable tunnels will also be deployed to linearly connect the airlocks to each other and to allow astronauts to enter and exit the base of the inflatable habitats. Six expandable regolith walls will be included to provide a firm regolith base for the biosphere and the bio-tori. Six 2.4 meter in diameter ECLSS modules will be included: two to be attached to the a biosphere airlock and individual modules to be attached to each of the bio-tori airlocks. Piping will be provided to connect the ECLSS modules to external radiators. And wiring will be provided to connect the ECLSS to external solar, nuclear, and chemical power units. Again, these payloads will initially be deployed to LEO before be transported to NRHO and then to the lunar surface by reusable LOX/LH2 vehicles.
Once deployed to the lunar surface, the inflated Kevlar biosphere would be 40 meters in diameter. An 18 meter in diameter bio-torus would surround the biosphere. And an additional 6 meter in diameter bio-torus would be placed with the lower cavity between the biosphere and the external bio-torus.The pressurized biosphere and bio-tori would sit on top a regolith base. Airlocks beneath the biosphere and bio-torus would be connected to cylindrical metallic tunnels internally pressurized with cylindrical Kevlar bags would provide astronauts with easy access to the other sections of the habitat while also allowing them to exit the habitat or to connect to exterior habitats.
The atmospheric pressure within the biosphere and within the bio-torus would be the same atmospheric pressure as on Earth. And this will allow people working in the bio-torus to move easily back and fourth between the bio-torus and the biosphere without the need of to deal with differences in pressure.
|Notional biodome recreational floor area of a 40 meter in diameter bio-torus|
With a floor area of 1257 square meters within a spacious biodome 20 meters high, the upper hemisphere of the 40 meter biosphere could be used for a variety of recreational purposes (tennis, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, etc). The biodome could also provide astronauts with a spacious area for relaxation if landscaped with grass and trees and other aesthetically pleasing foliage.
The lower hemisphere would be composed of four expansive habitat floors, 2.4 to 3 meters high, providing apartments, laboratories, and gyms and more than 1200 square meters of habitable floor space. The floors, rooms, and apartments will be composed of prefabricated sections manufactured on Earth and assembled within on the Moon within the pressurized biosphere. Ceiling, floor, and wall panels and beams and other structural components could be transported to the lunar surface by reusable and expendable commercial lunar transports. So the lower half of the biosphere should be able to provide at least four expansive levels for habitation, with the lower hemisphere alone far exceeding that of the floor area for SLS propellant tank derived habitat modules.
The surrounding 18 meter bio-torus would also consist of multiple levels that are composed of modular components. But, under this scenario, the bio-torus would be divided into five levels. The top level would be used for orchards (apple, orange, lemon, cherry, and peach trees) and also for raising large fauna: pigs, miniature cows, sheep, and possibly even ostriches. The second level would be used for poultry. The third and fourth level would be used for growing fruits and vegetables: bananas, pineapples, watermelons, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, corn, wheat, sugar beets, etc. The bottom level of the bio-torus would be used for aquaculture: brine shrimp, fish, oysters, etc.
The inner 6 meter in diameter bio-torus would be largely used for storage and for emergency habitation in case something serious should occur inside of the biosphere.
The entire facility would be designed to comfortably accommodate between 50 to 100 individuals.
Diameter and mass of Kevlar biospheres and bio-tori pressurized at 14.7 psi (101.3 kPa) with a safety factor of four without regolith shielding and structural support
40 meter in diameter biosphere: 27.5 tonnes
Surrounding 18 meter in diameter bio-torus: 38 tonnes
Surrounding 6 meter in diameter interior bio-torus: 2.5 tonnes
Mass of an M1-Abrams Tank - 62 tonnes
100 meters in diameter biosphere: - 430 tonnes
Surrounding 50 meter in diameter bio-torus: 759 tonnes
Surrounding 16 meter in diameter interior bio-torus: 44 tonnes
Mass of a Boeing 747 - 440 tonnes
200 meters in diameter biosphere: 3438 tonnes
Surrounding 100 meter in diameter bio-torus: 6071 tonnes
Surrounding 32 meter in diameter interior bio-torus: 348 tonnes
Mass of the Eiffel Tower - 7300 tonnes
300 meters in diameter biosphere: 11,600 tonnes
Surrounding 150 meter in diameter bio-torus: 20,512 tonnes
Surrounding 50 meter in diameter interior bio-torus: 1264 tonnes
Mass of an Ohio-Class atomic submarine - 16,764 tonnes
400 meter in diameter biosphere: 27, 500 tonnes
Surrounding 200 meter in diameter bio-torus: 48, 574 tonnes
Surrounding 60 meter in diameter interior bio-torus: 2478 tonnes
Mass of a cruise ship - 100,000 tonnes
1000 meters in diameter biosphere: 430,000 tonnes
Surrounding 500 meter in diameter bio-torus: 759, 000 tonnes
Surrounding 160 meter in diameter interior bio-torus: 44, 000 tonnes
Mass of the Golden Gate Bridge - 804, 673 tonnes
Much larger inflatable facilities will probably require the Kevlar material to be exported from Earth in small sections to be woven together by machines deployed to the lunar surface. And, eventually, Kevlar threads will be manufactured on the lunar surface from lunar materials mostly found at the lunar poles.
Biospheres that are 400 meters in diameter could be very attractive for human colonization of the Moon. The 200 meter high bio-domes of such facilities would be able to provide artificial lakes and lagoons at least 200 meters in diameter with surrounding sandy beaches where you could not only swim but also put on a pair of wings and fly under the low lunar gravity. The top half of the surrounding 200 meter in diameter bio-torus could also be used for housing familiar to that on Earth plus recreational parks and 100 meter lakes and lagoons. And with a 100 meter high rooftop, there should also be enough room in the bio-torus to strap on a pair of wings and fly at least 50 meters above the ground within the upper half of the bio-torus.
Links and References
Structural Design of a Lunar Habitat
Inflatable Habitation for the Lunar Base
Living and Reproducing on Low Gravity Worlds
GLOBAL LUNAR REGOLITH DEPTHS REVEALED
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
|A Firefly ATR 72 (Credit: Wikipedia/Ken Fielding)|
Renewable methanol (methyl alcohol) is a hydrocarbon fuel that can be derived from the synthesis of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen. Methyl alcohol can also be synthesized from syngas derived from the pyrolysis of hydrocarbon waste. The production of renewable methanol from both methods can be powered by carbon neutral electricity from both nuclear and renewable energy resources.
CO2 can be extracted directly from the atmosphere or from the flu gases of a power plant using a renewable hydrocarbon fuel. Hydrogen can be produced from the electrolysis of freshwater, seawater, brine, or from desalinated water derived from seawater or brine.
Methanol can be synthesized from the syngas resulting from the pyrolysis of urban and rural biowaste and hydrocarbon waste of non-biological origin such as polymers.
Twenty million tonnes of methanol is produced annually, predominantly from fossil fuels, mostly as an industrial chemical precursor. But methanol has been used as a fuel or as a fuel additive for buses, automobiles, and even marine vessels. And methyl alcohol could also be used to power commuter passenger aircraft.
In 2018, a Department of Energy report from Grigorii Soloveichik suggested that commercial-- propeller air transports-- modified to use fuel cells, batteries, and sustainable fuels could reduce propeller airplane energy usage by 40 to 60%, emissions by 90%, and aircraft noise by 65%.
An ATR 72 propeller commuter aircraft, for example, has a cruise speed of 317 mph (510 km/h) and a range of 949 mi (1528 km) using kerosene derived fuels such as Jet A, A-1/JP8, JetB/JP4, and JP5/JP1.
The Department of Energy report determined that utilizing fuel cells and batteries to power the propellers of an ATR 72 could substantially increase the range of a modified aircraft if it used methanol, biodiesel, ethanol, dimethyl ether, or ammonia. Utilizing renewable methanol could give a modified ATR 72 a range of 1800 miles (2900 kilometers).
|Fuel cell efficiency 55%, battery round trip efficiency 90%, energy consumption 4.6 kWh/mile for regional aircraft (Credit: Grigorii Soloveichik, DOE)|
Because of mounting expenses and regional and political infighting, the governor of California's, Gavin Newsom, had no choice but to curtail the first component of California's high speed rail line to the San Joaquin Valley area, spanning between the small California cities of Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings/Tulare, and Bakersfield.
With 12 to 25% of people in the US having some level of anxiety when it comes to flying, high speed rail could accommodate the regional transportation needs of up to 82 million Americans. And if the electric grid supplying the power is utilizing nuclear or renewable resources, high speed rail could accommodate regional transportation needs without adding excess greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.
However, the utilization of carbon neutral renewable methanol in electric commuter aircraft could accommodate the regional transportation needs for the other 246 million residents of the United States. In California, commuter aircraft using renewable methanol could operate out of smaller airports throughout California, transporting commuters, for instance from Oakland Airport to Hollywood Burbank (Bob Hope) Airport in less than 90 minutes and to Lake Tahoe Airport in less than a half hour.
Notional Methanol Fuel Cell/Battery ATR 72 Regional Destinations from Oakland, CA Airport (510 km/hr cruise speed)
Less than 30 minutes:
Lake Tahoe, CA - 237 km
Fresno Yosemite Airport - 244 km
Less than one hour:
Reno, Nevada - 287 km
Mammoth Yosemite Airport - 297 km
Eureka, CA - 369 km
Bakersfield, CA - 397 km
Santa Barbara, CA - 442 km
Less than 90 minutes:
Burbank, CA - 522 km
Long Beach, CA - 567 km
Las Vegas, Nevada - 652 km
San Diego, CA - 716 km
|Lockheed Martin airship (Credit: Lockheed Martin)|
A new generation of airships using fuel cells, electric batteries, and renewable methanol could also play a role in regional transportation. Lockheed Martin is developing a diesel powered airship with a cruise speed of 69 miles per hour (111 km/h) and a range of 1616 miles (2,600 kilometers). Modifying the Lockheed Martin airship to use fuel cells, batteries, and renewable methanol could make such vessels carbon neutral while greatly expanding their range.
Notional Methanol Airship Destinations from Downtown San Francisco (111 km/hr cruise speed)
Less than 30 minutes
SFO (San Francisco International Airport) - 20 km
Oakland International Airport - 20 km
Vallejo, CA - 36 km
Less than 60 minutes:
San Jose, CA - 68 km
Santa Rosa, CA - 78 km
Santa Cruz, CA - 96 km
Stockton, CA - 101 km
Less than 90 minutes:
Sacramento, CA - 120 km
Modesto, CA - 126 km
Monterey, CA - 137 km
While renewable jet fuels are destined to replace jet fuel from petroleum, and renewable hydrogen will be essential for the coming generation of supersonic and hypersonic jet planes that will dramatically cut intercontinental flight times, renewable methanol could play a dominating role in the new age of airships and commuter airplanes.
Links and References
Electrified future of aviation:batteries or fuel cells?
Fear of Flying
The Methanol Economy
Methanol as a Marine Fuel
Mitigating Forest Fires by Harvesting Potentially Hazardous Woodland Biomass for the Production of Renewable Methanol
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Deploying Ocean Nuclear Energy Flotillas into International Waters for the Carbon Neutral Production of Synthetic Fuels, Industrial Chemicals, and Fertilizers
|Artist’s rendition of the Russian floating nuclear power plant “Akademik Lomonosov” (Credit: SevMashZevod)|
by Marcel F. Williams
Floating Nuclear Reactors
Floating nuclear reactors in the form of nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, and nuclear icebreakers have been in existence since 1953. And more than 12,000 reactor years of marine operations has been accumulated since the 1950s. Also, two American and seven former Soviet Union nuclear submarines have sunk into the ocean-- with their nuclear material-- because of accidents or extensive damage. So nuclear reactors are no strangers to the Earth's marine environment since the 1950s. Currently, more than 180 small reactors power more than 140 sea vessels in the Earth's oceans.
In 1968, the US military deployed the first floating nuclear power reactor, the Sturgis (MH-1A). Supplying 10 megawatts of electric power to the Panama Canal Zone, the Sturgis operated without incident for over eight years until it reached the end of its service.
Now, Russia has deployed its first floating nuclear power reactor. Recognizing the advantages of floating nuclear power plants, Russia plans to replace nuclear reactors located on land with the new floating reactors.
China also has plans to develop and deploy 20 floating nuclear power plants of its own, the first destined for the South China seas.
Since water is what keeps nuclear material from melting down in light water nuclear reactors, floating nuclear reactors deployed to the oceans virtually infinite heat sink are viewed as inherently safe. Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, however, suggest that a tsunami could push a coastal floating nuclear reactor on land where the reactors fuel could be damaged and allowed to melt down-- poisoning the local environment with radioactive material. Such a scenario, of course, couldn't possibly occur for floating nuclear reactors that are-- remotely sited-- in ocean territories hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away from coastlines.
Stationary underwater nuclear reactors would be beneficial to Nations that possess extensive Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in remote territorial waters, could take advantage of stationary underwater nuclear reactors. Such remote regions in the world's oceans could utilize nuclear electricity for the production of carbon neutral synthetic fuels, industrial chemicals, and fertilizers that could be shipped by tankers around the world.
|Dark blue areas represent EEZ territories; light blue represents international waters (Credit: Wikipedia)|
In international waters, nations that don't possess remote territorial waters could still produce carbon neutral synthetic fuels, industrial chemicals and fertilizers-- on the high seas. But this would require mobile fleets of floating nuclear reactors and synfuel producing barges. Since no nation can legally claim a particular area of-- international waters-- a nuclear synplex flotilla could only occupy an area within international waters-- on a temporary basis.
Under this scenario, floating nuclear synplexes would produce hydrocarbon commodities in a particular area of international waters for three to six months before moving a few hundred kilometers away to another region of international waters. Such fuel producing flotillas would also have the advantage of being able to quickly redeploy to another region of the ocean in order to avoid hurricanes and typhoons. Tug boats would be used to deploy and to redeploy the barges within international waters.
Nuclear flotillas could be accompanied by floating plasma pyrolysis plants and electrolysis plants for converting urban and rural hydrocarbon waste into methanol, gasoline, diesel fuel, dimethyl ether, and jet fuel.
Housing for nuplex and synplex workers could be accommodated aboard cruise ships perhaps modified to use methanol or methanol fuel cells.
|The colored areas are regions where cyclones and hurricanes are most frequently created in the world's oceans (Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)|
Using the new generation of passively safe small nuclear reactors such as the NuScale type of units, a floating nuclear barge could consist of twelve 60 megawatt reactors producing 720 megawatts of total electricity. Eight floating nuclear barges could, therefore, produce about 5.7 gigawatts of electricity.
Tug boats could transport garbage barges from a coastal town or city to a floating garbage processing barge equipped with cranes that would separate metals from biowaste and plastics. Afterwards the waste processing barge would use its cranes to deploy biowaste and plastics to the plasma arc pyrolyis plant where the garbage would be converted into syngas (mainly carbon monoxide and hydrogen). Additional hydrogen would be added to the process by adding hydrogen derived from the electrolysis of distilled water. A catalyst would be used to convert the syngas into methanol.
|Production of methanol from hydrocarbon waste|
To enhance safety, the electric powered synfuel barges could be deployed about five kilometers (3 miles) away from the floating nuclear reactors. At $150 per meter, a five kilometer submarine cable connecting the barge to the floating nuclear power plant should cost less than $800,000.
Methanol could be shipped by tankers to coastal towns and cities to be utilized in natural gas electric power plants cheaply modified to use methanol. Methanol electric power stations would actually produce electricity more efficiently than natural gas. It would also be much safer to ship methanol to coastal towns and cities than liquid natural gas.
|Japanese Methanol Tanker (Credit: SHIN KURUSHIMA DOCKYARD CO)|
The imported methanol could also be converted into dimethyl ether (a diesel fuel substitute) or be used to make biodiesel. Methanol can also be converted into high octane gasoline that can replace or be easily blended with gasoline derived from petroleum.
Even more methanol can be produced if the CO2 from the flu gases of methanol electric power plants is captured and transported by tanker back to the floating nuclear synplex.
Ammonia and urea could also be produced by remote floating nuclear synplexes, allowing fertilizer to be supplied by tankers to the coastlines of islands and countries around the world.
The abundant oxygen produced from the electrolysis of water by the accompanying synplexes could be utilized for the manufacturing and processing of steel from iron ore.
|Coast Guard Cutter (Credit: Wikipedia)|
Protection from Pirates and Terrorist
Floating nuclear power plants and synplexes would still have to be accompanied by at least some naval defense presence in order to protect against being taken over or damaged by pirates or potential terrorist on the high seas. The added expense of naval security would probably favor large Ocean Nuclear flotillas capable of generating at least 3000 megawatts of electricity for the accompanying synplex flotillas. The largest land based nuclear power facilities have electric capacities of nearly 8000 megawatts. The largest land based nuclear power facility in the US (Palo Verde) is capable of generating 3300 megawatts of electricity.
If Coast Guard protection of a nuclear flotilla in international waters cost $100 to $200 million a year, it could cost $10 to $20 billion a year to protect 570 gigawatts of electric power and associated synfuel, fertilizer, and industrial chemical production in international waters. However, if such flotillas were congregated in just a few remote US EEZ areas, the cost of Coast Guard protection could be substantially reduced. And it should be noted that the US military currently spends about--$81 billion a year-- protecting greenhouse gas polluting global oil supplies on the world's oceans. So protecting Ocean Nuclear synfuel production could be a lot cheaper than protecting oil supplies.
Utilization within and beyond the EEZ by the US and other Nations
Coastal nations that lack remote EEZ areas such as Singapore, South Korea, Israel, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Syria, Egypt, Eritrea, etc. could utilize floating nuclear synplexes in remote international waters to export their garbage and sewage for the production of synfuels, fertilizers, and industrial chemicals through floating nuclear synplexes without the political and environmental complications of having nearby nuclear facilities.
The United States could also use floating nuclear synplexes within its remote EEZ areas without the need of frequent redeployment until they've developed underwater nuclear facilities for their remote EEZ areas. The US Navy would could especially benefit from the production of jet fuel from floating nuclear synplexes in the Wake Island EEZ. This could allow US nuclear aircraft carriers attempting to counter the growing power of China and Russia in the Pacific to be supplied with jet fuel at the Wake Island EEZ-- in a region near the areas of global tension.
Links and References
Nuclear Powered Ships
The Future of Ocean Nuclear Synfuel Production
Siting Ocean Nuclear Power Plants in Remote US Territorial Waters for the Carbon Neutral Production of Synfuels and Industrial ChemicalsMethanol as a Marine Fuel
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References & Links 1. http://www.startech.net/ 2. Methanol production from Startech technology 3. Online brochure
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