Until recently, rocket technology was extremely wasteful and inefficient. Traditional rocketry has been conducted under the philosophy of ‘disposable technology’ and single-use launch vehicles. The issue is that there has never been a reliable means of reusing the space craft after it has been in space. (Of course, the Space Shuttle program was arguably reusable[i] – if you had low expectations about the meaning of reusability.)
Space technology has been regarded as ‘disposable’ such that there are only one-way missions; space hardware is effectively abandoned on Mars, the Moon, in orbit, or into the oceans. This tactic is comparable to building a cross-country railroad, transporting an entire trainload of cargo from San Francisco to New York City, and then throwing all the boxcars into the Atlantic Ocean – and then – pulling up the railroad tracks you just laid down! Even the $150B International Space Station is referred to as disposable technology[ii]. However, private companies, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and Stratolaunch, are reimagining rocket launch systems such that the vertical or horizontal take-off launch vehicles and rockets are regularly reusable. If the vehicle and rocket is reusable, they, like the railroad infrastructure of tracks, bridges, boxcars, and stations, become permanent assets.
We are trying to accomplish something similar with the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure (LSEI). We want to fundamentally change the paradigm of space access and utilization by crafting a system where all assets in place are reusable, replaceable, and expandable.
Roads, Towns, Mines, and Factories in the history of humanity, it was often the case that settlements emerged around a supply of natural resources, such as:
This is the developmental progression we are envisioning for the LSEI. The Moon is our resource-well; it is filled with useful assets – Water-ice, minerals, etc. Our LSEI will be the road, allowing transportation of cargo to and from the Lunar surface. The Lagrange Station will be the town that begins to grow. Here, the established road will stimulate the growth of the Lagrange Station as it develops facilities for research, manufacturing, life support, habitation, command and control, and operations. Ultimately, a second outpost will also develop – on the Moon. Our LSE Infrastructure nurtures the establishment of both towns. It is a virtuous cycle; as the assets and capabilities of one ‘town’ grows, this stimulates the assets and capabilities of the other ‘town’. Both towns will prosper. The road between them will grow. The assets on the Lunar surface, and cargo transported up from the Earth, provide the foundation to build upon.
Appropriate Government Limitations
The US Government will not allow a project of this magnitude to be conducted without being significantly involved[iii]. The governmental organizations that will (or might) contribute to a project of this nature would either be military or civilian, more specifically, the Air Force, or NASA. That being said, neither of these organizations are ideally positioned to lead this type of project, for a number of reasons.
So why not have the government hire one of the ‘primes’, military technology contractors to develop the LSEI instead of LiftPort? That simply boils down to the risk of the project. Companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin are regularly contracted by the US armed forces to make aircraft, radar, communications systems, satellites, and other advanced technology for specialized use, however, building LSEI is not the primary function of these companies. Boeing (primarily) makes airplanes and has a lot of stakeholders – and shareholders – who have invested in an “airplane production company”[viii]. To commit a large capital base, and resources to an exploratory project, unrelated to their core business model will discourage their investors and devalue their company. Share prices would drop, and you’d likely have a reshuffle of the Board of Directors over it. Additionally, this project is going to be extremely risky and dangerous. If the project results in casualties, disaster, bankruptcy, or anything shy of success, the primary company associated with it would take the hit. (The case-study of Iridium and Motorola proves this point[ix].) LiftPort can bear the weight of that risk. LiftPort will partner – by paying for their services – with a contracted ‘prime’. We could utilize their technical acumen and other assets without them labeling the project with their name. That way, they are involved but if it fails, the rest of their company is not imperiled.
Therefore, a small, aggressive, focused, purpose- and profit-driven company is best suited to accomplish the goal of building the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure. A company like LiftPort Group.
We are LiftPort
This project needs an infrastructure of its own to find foundation in. An infrastructure of business and operations, as well as technical knowledge that will allow for this project to begin building momentum. LiftPort Group is that infrastructure. We are small, nimble and driven and have remained central to the dream of this Elevator as other variables have shifted.
LiftPort Group and the Lunar Elevator have melded together over the last two decades. When NASA decided that they did not want to continue pursuing research on the Earth Elevator, LiftPort was founded. Since then, the project has failed, evolved, been reimagined, and rebuilt, all under LiftPort’s banner. LiftPort has been pioneering the development of a Lunar Elevator and has the largest collection of research, data, writing, images, videos, calculations, and simulations on the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure in the world. LiftPort has also established an extensive network of researchers and professionals, who believe in, and are willing to contribute to the vision of the LSEI. Our Technical Advisory Council (TAC) is composed of ~400 academics and professionals, who are accomplished in their field of expertise. They are committed to working towards and researching our plan. LiftPort is flexible, knowledgeable, connected, and if all else fails, expendable. We are everything that the Lunar Space Elevator Infrastructure is and we are in the best position to build it. We are LiftPort.
[i] Wilson, J. (2006, March) Space Shuttle. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/returntoflight/system/system_STS.html
[ii] Suffredini, M., (2010, October). ISS End-of-Life Disposal Plan. Retrieved From https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/578543main_asap_eol_plan_2010_101020.pdf
[iii] Brown, L. (2016, August). Fact Sheet – Moon Express Payload Review Determination
[iv] United States Air Force. (n.d.) Compliance with Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program Rules. Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/oig/outreach/sbirworkshop/Air%20Force%20SBIR-STTR%20Program%20Rules.pdf
[v] National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (Unamended), Public Law #85-568, 72 Stat., 426. Signed by the President on July 29, 1958, Record Group 255, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C; available in NASA Historical Reference Collection, History Office, NASA Headquarters, Washington
[vi] Pearson, J. (2001). The ElectroDynamic Delivery Experiment (EDDE). AIP Conference Proceedings. doi:10.1063/1.1357958
[vii] European Space Agency. (n.d.). About YES2. Retrieved from http://www.esa.int/Education/Young_Engineers_Satellites/About_YES2
[viii] Boeing. (2015). Airline Strategies and Business Models. Retrieved from http://www.boeing.com/commercial/market/long-term-market/airline-strategies-and-business-models/
[ix] Martin, M., International Herald Tribune. (1999). Iridium Fails to Find a Market : Satellite Phone Misses Its Orbit. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1999/10/08/news/iridium-fails-to-find-a-market-satellite-phone-misses-its-orbit.html