Reference Mission
Section 4.1.1.
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Phases of the Reference Mission

We've divided up the reference mission into several phases:

  1. Earth surface to Earth orbit
  2. Earth orbit staging and assembly
  3. Translunar flight
  4. Lunar landing
  5. Lunar surface operations
  6. Ascent to lunar orbit
  7. Return to Earth orbit
  8. Earth orbit operations
  9. Return to Earth surface

The first and last of these involve atmospheric flight. Atmospheric vehicles (especially reentry vehicles) are far more costly, complex, and heavy than spacecraft, so right now The Lunar Resources Company is betting on the success of at least one of several projects which are working on a good solution to this problem. If, over the next few years, it doesn't look like a solution is forthcoming from other endeavors, we'll have to add that to our program.

This would slow us down by distracting resources to an expanded market. We don't think a lunar base could support a whole new launch system all by itself, at least not for the first few years; so to build our own launch vehicle, we would have to get into launching communications satellites and other commercial applications (including scientific payloads, of course).

This would add another five years to the program; maybe ten.

Mission phases 3 through 7 are accomplished by the Lunar Transfer Vehicle, Descent Stage, Lunar Habitat, and Ascent Stage in the reference mission.

That leaves phases 2 and 8, which in the original reference mission used either the space station or a Shuttle. Since the space station moved to a high-inclination orbit to accommodate cooperative operations with spacecraft launched from Russia, we're less hopeful about using it as a staging base.

There is at least one company (OUSPADEV) thinking of building a commercial space station which would suit our needs and our budget. If that doesn't happen and the Shuttle is not a viable option, we'll have to fill that gap ourselves. Fortunately, it's not as hard to provide a staging base in low Earth orbit as it is to get to and from Earth orbit. Our Lunar Transfer Vehicle could serve as its own staging base, though I'd like to have the services of a large robot arm and strongback assembly fixture like those on the space station and Shuttle.

We don't know yet just how we'll perform the functions of the first two and last two mission phases. As the project develops over the next few years, we'll watch what's happening and do what we have to do.

In the meantime, all you entrepreneurs out there: please note that there's at least one customer coming who is going to need these services. You can expect our hardware to show up at your door some time after July 2002; just how long after depends on what else happens in the world between now and then, and how fast the project grows.

Reference Mission

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