A commercial, passenger-carrying moon rocket is not part of the early stages of the project, but it is a very important part of the long-range vision. This is the implementing technology that gets everybody to the moon. We need a more accurate analysis of this concept to firm up the extended financial forecast. (If the finances work, the rest of the program will work.)
If you're interested in helping with the technical work for the conceptual design, you'll want to join the Artemis Society's Future Earth-Moon Transportation Systems Project Team. Membership in this team is open to all members of Artemis Society International. (If you're not already a member of ASI, what are you waiting for? Join today! See the membership form to find out how to join us in this magnificent adventure!)
We assume someone has developed a passenger-carrying SSTO rocket capable of achieving low Earth orbit. This vehicle is also designed to support its crew and passengers for up to 3 days before returning to Earth. This is the nominal mission that several companies around the world are considering. On a regular flight the passengers would get two orbits of the Earth, three hours in space, for a ticket price of about US$20,000. Our goal is to change that to a full two-week vacation to the moon while keeping the price of the tour package down to a point that is commercially viable.
About 85% of the weight of this vehicle at launch is oxygen used for propulsion. By refueling the vehicle in Earth orbit with oxygen mined from the moon, we extend its range so that it can fly all the way to the moon and land. On the moon, the rocket's passengers disembark for their vacation at the Luna City Hotel. Those passengers will take a later flight back. The rocket is again refueled on the moon and picks up returning passengers for the flight back to Earth.
You can see from the scale of the passenger deck that this is a very large rocket, perhaps 250 feet high. Its shape is driven by reentry aerodyamics. Although this type of vehicle would be notoriously inefficient in the eyes of a rocket scientist, their development costs and simplicity of operation are pure beauty to the accountant who has to watch the bottom line.
Launch from Groote Eylandt in Australia, as shown in the business plan below, is part whimsy and part logic. Groote Eylandt is near the equator, which reduces the delta-V required to achieve orbit. It is near a good-sized city which can handle passenger accommodation before and after the flight, and provide a cultural center for people working at the space port. The island itself has some facilities, for the Australian armed forces. And it is in a body of water large enough to allow this behemoth to take off and land without severe environmental impact.
Many other places on Earth fit these same criteria; for now, we just need one place that will work.
Here are some preliminary assumptions to get things started. Nitpicking the assumptions isn't as important as setting up the methods for analyzing the problem. First we need to set up the financial model for the operation. Then we can find out how sensitive the business plan is to the input assumptions.
Vehicle development cost = US$25,000,000,000.00 (25 billion)
End product: 2 prototypes, flight test complete
Design start 1 Jan 1998
First commercial flight 1 Jan 2008
Unit cost for operational SSTO = US$1,000,000,000.00 (1 billion dollars)
Fleet size = 10 operational vehicles
Note that fleet size is driven by vehicle size, assumed total passenger load, and mission cycle time.
Launch frequency = 1 per day
Payload = 50 paying passengers + crew
Crew size is probably about 4, but maybe a bit more
Assume all flights carry 100% passenger load
Earth surface to LEO = 0.5 days
Refuel in LEO with strap-on tanks = 0.5 days
LEO to Moon = 3.0 days
Lunar Surface Operations = 1.0 days
Refuel main tanks
Replace strap-ons with full tanks
Load passengers and cargo
Moon to LEO = 3.0 days
Drop off full strap-on tanks in LEO = 0.5 days
LEO to Earth surface, unload = 0.5 days
Inspect, refurbish, refuel = 2.0 days
Airline-type operations, modified to meet scenario for early commercial space flight operations
Reserved seats, 10% non-refundable deposit not less than 1 year in advance; assume all flights sold out 5 years in advance.
Balance due no later than L-30 days
$100,000 liability insurance per passenger included in ticket price; assume insurance cost 10X current flight insurance rates.
Extensive passenger qualification program (health issues; medical checkup included in ticket price)
Extensive baggage handling and inspection
Earth base personnel = 375
Touch labor @ 12 per vehicle = 300
Management @ SOC of 5 = 75
Moon base personnel = 54
Touch labor @ 2 per vehicle = 48
Management @ SOC of 10 = 6
Maintenance facilities included in development cost
Assume space line makes its own fuel, hydrogen+oxygen
Fuel facility cost US$200,000,000
Refueling in low Earth orbit with lunar oxygen at 10 times the cost of the same fuel on Earth.
Extracting oxygen from the moon's soil and shipping it to Earth will be much more difficult than electrolyzing sea water. However, since we would have to launch 20 of these SSTO rockets to refuel just one from Earth fuel, the economy of moon fuel has considerable leverage.
The FEMTS Team is working out the deatils of fuel quantities required per flight.
Earth facilities: launch site, passenger facilities and accommodations
Location: Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory, Australia
Passengers responsible for their own transportation to and from our Lunar Explorers Hospitality Center in Darwin
Transportation between hotels in Darwin and launch facilities on Groote Eylandt included in ticket cost
Accommodations: See the paper about the Luna City Hotel.
The end products of this analysis are a cashflow spreadsheet, estimated ROI, and per-passenger ticket price for a 2-week excursion to the moon.
Starting with the development costs for the vehicle and support facilities, figure out the amortization that cost at an interest rate of _______ over a period of _____ years. Model the business organization for start-up and continuing operations. Don't forget marketing costs.
If you would like to help develop a business plan for this commercial lunar passenger rocket, or would like to work on a conceptual design, please let us know. This form sends a message to <email@example.com>.