A fuel depot in space

Published August 12, 2016

I recently stumbled across an old note I made, after listening to an episode of Inside Science from the BBC. It’s a fantastic space quote about setting up lunar fuel depots, discussing the prospect of solving the problem whereby you need to take off from Earth with all the fuel to get where you’re going. If you can break that barrier, more remote areas of space become possible.


Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

But how do you do that? The episode had an interview with Olivier de Weck, astronautical engineer at MIT who has an idea:

Reaching low earth orbit is halfway to almost anywhere in the solar system. The way we’ve done exploration is one mission at a time, none of the missions left anything behind for any future mission to use and so, what we’re advocating is a network based approach. Essentially, an interplanetary supply chain.

The Solar Granger Point Number Two is actually on the far side of the moon. It’s a gravitationally neutral place which is a great place to put a fuel depot, or a refuelling station. The fuel depot itself needs to get refuelled obviously, and this happens through tankers and shuttles that go back and forth between the lunar surface and the fuel depot. And then spacecraft can pick up their fuel and then you go off to wherever you want to go. If you go to Mars, that means you do a trans-Mars injection. You can also go to near-Earth objects, asteroids and so forth. So it’s a very attractive architecture.

There aren’t really enough words to describe how I love this idea. I hope those off-earth fuel depots also sell maps and have free water/air!

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