Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Cis-Lunar Gateways and the Advantages of Near Rectilinear Orbits

Computer illustration of Near Rectilinear Orbits between EML1 and EML2 (Credit: NASA).

NASA appears to have settled on a Near Rectilinear L2 Halo Orbit (NRO) for its future Deep Space Habitat (DSH).  NROs are a subset of of L1 or L2 halo  orbits. NRO's have  large amplitudes over either the north or south lunar poles with shorter periods that pass closely to the opposite pole. Station keeping at an NRO would require a delta-v of only 5 m/s per year. With an impulsive departure from LEO at about 3.124 km/s, a crewed spacecraft would reach an L2  NRO in about 5.33 days. Orbital capture would require a delta-v of 0.829 km/s. 

An  EML1 location for a DSH  would only require a delta-v of  3.77 km/s and four days of travel time. But 2 days of travel time would be required for a journey from EML1 to Low Lunar Orbit (LLO). An NRO location, however, would only require 12 hours of travel time to LLO. So the surface of the Moon could be accessed from a NRO located Deep Space Hab in just 12 hours.

Possible Cis-Lunar Locations for a DSH (Deep Space Habitat)

EML1(Earth-Moon Lagrange Point One):

Travel time to and  from LEO:  ~4 days (3.77 km/s)

Station keeping: < 10 m/s per year

Travel time to and from LLO: ~ 2 days (0.750 km/s)

EML2  (Earth Moon Lagrange Point Two):

Travel time to and  from LEO:~ 8 days from LEO (3.43 km/s)

Station keeping < 10 m/s per year

Travel time to and from LLO:~ 3 days to LLO (0.8 km/s)

DRO (Distant Retrograde Orbit):

Travel time to and  from LEO: ~ 6 days

Station keeping: 0 m/s per year

Travel time to and from LLO: ~ 4 days  (0.83 km/s)

NRO: (Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit):

Travel time to and  from LEO:~5 days from LEO (3.95 km/s)

Station keeping: 5 m/s per year
Travel time to and from LLO:~ 12 hours to LLO (0.730 km/s)

Significantly shorter flight times from LEO to NRO could be achieved with higher delta-v levels that could easily be achieved by future reusable LOX/LH2 fueled spacecraft such as the ULA's XEUS and Lockheed Martin's MADV which could be used for round trip journeys to the lunar surface from a NRO and for transporting crews between LEO and NRO.

Links and References 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Mighty XEUS

ACES derived XEUS DTAL lunar crew lander (Credit: ULA)
The United Launch Alliance's (ULA) reusable XEUS vehicle would use ACES cryotanks capable of storing up to 68 tonnes of LOX/LH2 propellant. Filling up with liquid hydrogen and oxygen at a LOX/LH2 propellant producing water depot located at EML1, the XEUS could be used to transports astronauts, round trip,  between EML1 and the surface of the Moon.

The XEUS  could also be used to transport astronauts between propellant depots located at  LEO and EML1 or EML2. 

 Beyond cis-lunar space, the XEUS vehicle could be used to access the surfaces of Mercury, asteroids in the asteroid belt such as Ceres, Vesta, and Psyche,  Jupiter's moon, Callisto,  and also the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos.

As a cargo transport operating out of EML1, the XEUS could deliver more than 50 tonnes of cargo to the lunar surface or transport more than 50 tonnes of water extracted from the lunar ice back to propellant producing water depots located at EML1 or EML2. 

Deployed into Earth orbit by a  Vulcan/ACES 68 launch vehicle in the early 2020s, the XEUS could give NASA, the DOD, other government space agencies, and even space tourist easy access to the surface of the Moon and back while helping to give humans access to other regions of the solar system.

Marcel F. Williams

Links and References

Efficient Utilization of the Space Launch System in the Age of Propellant DepotsThe ULA's Future ACES Upper Stage Technology


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