Defining Vision of LiftPort’s
Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure
Sinus Medii is where we will be constructing LSEI which is directly below the Earth-Moon Lagrange One (EML1) point, which will be our deployment target and where the main space station (PicoGravity Laboratory) will be constructed. The Elevator itself is mostly composed of a thin Ribbon that will be dropped from EML1 and anchored into the Moon. Then, the Ribbon will be slowly let out as the original launch vehicle (which we will use as a tethered counterweight) slowly falls from the EML1 towards Earth. When the Ribbon is entirely extended, the rocket will remain on the Earth-side end, keeping the Ribbon taught. Robotic “Lifter” cars (like railroad engines, but much smaller) will be able to move along the entire length of the Ribbon, accessing the Moon and carrying resources down and up the Ribbon.
Once that infrastructure is in place, LiftPort plans to construct a space station at the EML1 (the gravitational midpoint between the Earth and the Moon) that will have numerous functions. One of these will be a refueling station for incoming and outgoing rockets on space missions. This is important, because if we have the capabilities to launch a fully fueled rocket from the null-gravity location of EML1, we will be able to explore farther, more often, and cheaper, than any prior NASA capability. Furthermore, this space station will be a future hub for other infrastructure development on the Moon - meaning we will develop contracts with companies to commercialize CisLunar space.
LiftPort Group has broken down the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure project into three phases:
Phase I – Research
Phase I consists of researching the system. All the technology (rocketry, robotics, and materials science) necessary to construct the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure (LSEI) exists today, however the technologies and systems have never been utilized in this manner or in this combination before. As part of this Research Phase, LiftPort Group will conduct both a Feasibility Study and a Technical Study, which will answer two questions: Feasibility will consider - “is this project is a good idea”? Just because we have the capabilities to build the Lunar Space Elevator doesn't guarantee that it is appropriate to construct for our society. By researching who will be affected, the societal implications of the project, and the financial, political, and military ramifications that may prevent a project of this magnitude from being completed, the Feasibility Study will answer “should it be built?”
The LSEI is a collection of large, specialized, systems (rocket launch, ribbon deployment, anchor system, space station) that need to operate together seamlessly. The Technical Study will focus on the plausibility of the project from a scientific, engineering, and hardware standpoint. The Technical Study answers the question – “can it be built?”
Upon completion of these studies LiftPort will draft a builder’s manual, this will be a complete and comprehensive document to constructing LSEI. Following the manual, we will send our designs and schematics out to an independent review board for intense scrutiny and criticism (Preliminary & Critical Design Reviews (CDR)), so that LiftPort will be able to account for and assess new concerns that were not previously brought to our attention.
Once we pass CDR, in the last stage of Phase I, we will make a final assessment about the overall reasonableness of the project and whether to act on it. We call this the Go/No Go Plan. If we decide that LSEI is not feasible, plans to fix errors and close technology gaps will be put into action until we can move forward with the project.
A final consideration for Phase I is this – it costs about $8M (and two years) to evaluate and buy-down risk, and to fully understand the options/obstacles ahead. However, this is not ‘sunk’ money. Whether the Elevator ultimately succeeds or not, this capital is spent on research and is expected to generate a lot of valuable intellectual property assets. These assets should generate wealth by spinning off as stand-alone companies or licensed to other organizations.
Phase II - Development
Phase II is the development stage which is projected to cost $80M (and 3 years). Here, we will integrate what we have learned from Phase I, and begin the detailed effort of experimentation and evaluation.
The ‘system of systems’ will be broken into their smallest parts and rigorously modeled and simulated. Aspects that need further validation will be constructed and tested – this includes small-scale atmospheric, orbital, and Lunar missions. A sample of these tests include:
Phase III – Construction & Deployment
Phase III consists of two parts: construction and deployment. Projected to cost $800M, we are allowing three years for this Phase – keeping in mind that the actual deployment process (launch, traverse to Lagrange, Ribbon descent, and first robotic Lifter) should only take about four months. The goal is to assemble all the tested pieces from Phase II into a single, deployable system. The deployment procedure requires only a single launch to EML1. From that point, the Ribbon will be extended down and anchored to the Moon, thereby establishing the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure in CisLunar space