Scenarios for Manned Space Development
Section 2.
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Lunar Satellite Manufacturing

Building satellites on the moon and put them into Earth orbit from there, rather than launching them from the ground, is a possibility for lunar manufacturing being considered. This could be a significant revenue source for the lunar base in the long term.

From the standpoint of energy, it's much cheaper to get a satellite from the moon to Earth orbit than from the ground. One promising near-term in-situ launcher technology is an aluminum-oxygen hybrid system.

Whether the money required is greater or less depends on where we are on the timeline for lunar development. If we're already in the oxygen business then providing fuel for the satellite would be considerably less expensive, and we'd already have a launch system in place to get those oxygen bottles to Earth orbit.

Building the satellites themselves is still another question. That can be a labor-intensive operation. Except for hydrogen, which is scarce on the moon and too valuable to export, the materials we need are all available in the lunar regolith, but we'd have to establish the manufacturing processes and tools. It's mostly a question of how many man-hours it takes to build a reliable satellite, and how much it costs to support the necessary labor on the moon.

To make a high-tech manufacturing industry work, we'd have to set up shops to build practically 100% of the parts on the moon. That means computer chips, gyroscopes, rocket engines, metal extrusions and milled pieces, photovoltaic cells, image sensing arrays, test rigs... everything needed to produce a satellite.

There are a couple of alternative scenarios that would get the lunar base into the satellite business faster. (1) We could do the final integration and assembly at a space station in LEO, or (2) ship the small, high tech parts from Earth to the moon. In both scenarios, we'd make the heavy stuff [oxydizer, tanks, structure] on the moon.

Eventually, though, we'll want our lunar civilization to build the whole thing even if they have to import some of the raw materials.

Scenarios for Manned Space Development

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