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Suggestion #09:  absolutely avoid to adopt (for now) any kind of orbital refuel

Despite the idea of an "orbital refuel" may look useful and fascinating (it's one of the most "cool" ideas proposed in many Space forums and blogs) add this kind of operation, as part of an orbital or lunar mission, is the best way to have further (big) delays in its development and a very high risk to fail accomplishing the missions!

Of course, I agree that refuel vehicles and rockets in Space is a key technology to have more, better and much longer missions in Space, that's why I've advocated (over three years ago!) the idea of one or more Lunar Space Stations with Reusable Lunar Landers (that, last year has became an ESAS's own and "developed internally" idea...!!!) to have much more, better, safer, cheaper and more efficient lunar missions, so, clearly, I hope that many funds will be allocated (by space agencies and aerospace companies) to actually study, develop and build a "space refuel" hardware to apply it in real missions only when this technology will be enough safe and reliable to give more advantages than problems.

Reading some space "experts" blogs and hundreds posts, on many space forums, the "orbital refuel" looks as easy as refuel a car at the gas station... but, unfortunately, develop, build and test the space-refuel's hardware, implement it in a space mission and gather enough data, experience and know-how to have a SAFE and RELIABLE orbital refuel in EVERY manned mission, absolutely ISN'T so "easy", "fast", "cheap" as these "experts" want you believe!

I think that, starting NOW the R&D with HUGE funds, the "orbital refuel" could become a viable, safe and easy to implement technology, not earlier than 8-10 years, so, it's NOT a technology for today or tomorrow but something we will see fly in Space and work well, only within a decade, around 2020 (but ONLY starting TODAY with HUGE funds!) while, apply any kind of "refuel in space" to the ESAS plan, the Ares-5 or the EDS, will DELAY everything, at least, by three further years!

I wish to explain the latter point, comparing two different scenarios for the ESAS plan: one based on the, currently planned, 180 tons payload, Ares-5 with the Altair, the EDS and the propellents carried to LEO, in a SINGLE launch, another scenario based on two, smaller, 90 tons payload each, Ares-5 "light", the first launched with the Altair and an unfueled EDS, the second launched with a "big tank" of propellents to refuel the EDS in Space.

Well, assuming the current, big, single launch Ares-5 will be ready to fly within 10 years, around 2018-2020, the second scenario (two smaller Ares-5 and orbital refuel of the EDS) can shift this date to 2020-2022, since, also IF the space-refuel hardware will be developed in less time (4-6 years) you always need to test it IN SPACE with the REAL Ares-5 "light", a thing, you can accomplish only in the months/years AFTER the Ares-5 "light" will be ready to fly, with two-three launches, automatic rendezvous and docking, orbital refuel, evaluation of the missions, fixing of possible issues, etc.

That's why a space program and/or a rocket based on some kind of orbital refuel, adds, at least, two-three years of research, development, test time (and huge costs) to a (similar) space program and/or a rocket that works without any orbital refuel.

Another lie of the "space-refuel supporters" is, that, with this technology, all space missions may cost much LESS than, the same missions, accomplished with already fueled rockets and spacecrafts... but, this claim, clearly is completely FALSE, since, the orbital refuel technology needs MORE R&D TIME (at least 2-3 years more than every standard rocket) MORE MONEY (at least 3-5 billion$ more to develop two versions of the Ares-5 second stage, a refuelable EDS, the refuel "tanks", the refuel hardware, the refuel operations in Space, two-three test flights, etc.) and WHEN (and IF...) the "orbital refuel technology" will become real and enough SAFE, reliable, tested and ready to fly in manned missions, the "price" to carry to LEO the Altair+EDS and the propellents with TWO rockets, will be EXACTLY THE SAME or, probably, VERY MUCH HIGHER than carry the Altair and an already fueled EDS in Space with a single, bigger rocket!!!

In other words, the orbital refuel of big rockets and EDS, will become really cheap and interesting ONLY when the propellents will fly in space on very low cost rockets with a price-per-kg. of payload, at least, 5, 10, 30 times LESS than today's rockets, OR when the propellents will be produced by ISRU factories on the Moon.

Two years ago, I've already proposed (in this article) a "minimal" orbital refuel of the Orion's SM to overcome the (still existing) overweight Orion and underpowered Ares-1 issue, launching a partially fueled (then much lighter) Orion, but this "minimal" refuel operation in Space, may need the same R&D extra time and costs of a refuelable EDS, with big and unnecessary risks for the astronauts and (in both SM or EDS refuel) also the risk of an high number of FAILED missions due to long launch delays of one of the Ares-5 rockets, problems to dock the tanks with the SM or EDS, propellents leaks, etc.

So, my 9th suggestion, is to: absolutely avoid to adopt (for now) any kind of orbital refuel because (as clearly and deeply explained above) add this kind of (now unexisting) technology to the ESAS hardware may only increase the R&D time and costs and/or the risks for the astronauts and the number of failed missions due to launch delays and/or failed orbital refuels!

Of course, I suggest to INVEST in the development of the orbital refuel technology, to apply it, someday, when it will become cheap, safe, reliable and economically viable, and I suggest and advocate also the development of a refuelable and reusable Altair, since this is the only kind of orbital refuel that may give big advantages and giant money saving, especially when it will be supplied with lunar ISRU propellents.

 

b/w

Despite the idea of an "orbital refuel" may look useful and fascinating (it's one of the most "cool" ideas proposed in many Space forums and blogs) add this kind of operation, as part of an orbital or lunar mission, is the best way to have further (big) delays in its development and a very high risk to fail accomplishing the missions!

Of course, I agree that refuel vehicles and rockets in Space is a key technology to have more, better and much longer missions in Space, that's why I've advocated (over three years ago!) the idea of one or more Lunar Space Stations with Reusable Lunar Landers (that, last year has became an ESAS's own and "developed internally" idea...!!!) to have much more, better, safer, cheaper and more efficient lunar missions, so, clearly, I hope that many funds will be allocated (by space agencies and aerospace companies) to actually study, develop and build a "space refuel" hardware to apply it in real missions only when this technology will be enough safe and reliable to give more advantages than problems.

Reading some space "experts" blogs and hundreds posts, on many space forums, the "orbital refuel" looks as easy as refuel a car at the gas station... but, unfortunately, develop, build and test the space-refuel's hardware, implement it in a space mission and gather enough data, experience and know-how to have a SAFE and RELIABLE orbital refuel in EVERY manned mission, absolutely ISN'T so "easy", "fast", "cheap" as these "experts" want you believe!

I think that, starting NOW the R&D with HUGE funds, the "orbital refuel" could become a viable, safe and easy to implement technology, not earlier than 8-10 years, so, it's NOT a technology for today or tomorrow but something we will see fly in Space and work well, only within a decade, around 2020 (but ONLY starting TODAY with HUGE funds!) while, apply any kind of "refuel in space" to the ESAS plan, the Ares-5 or the EDS, will DELAY everything, at least, by three further years!

I wish to explain the latter point, comparing two different scenarios for the ESAS plan: one based on the, currently planned, 180 tons payload, Ares-5 with the Altair, the EDS and the propellents carried to LEO, in a SINGLE launch, another scenario based on two, smaller, 90 tons payload each, Ares-5 "light", the first launched with the Altair and an unfueled EDS, the second launched with a "big tank" of propellents to refuel the EDS in Space.

Well, assuming the current, big, single launch Ares-5 will be ready to fly within 10 years, around 2018-2020, the second scenario (two smaller Ares-5 and orbital refuel of the EDS) can shift this date to 2020-2022, since, also IF the space-refuel hardware will be developed in less time (4-6 years) you always need to test it IN SPACE with the REAL Ares-5 "light", a thing, you can accomplish only in the months/years AFTER the Ares-5 "light" will be ready to fly, with two-three launches, automatic rendezvous and docking, orbital refuel, evaluation of the missions, fixing of possible issues, etc.

That's why a space program and/or a rocket based on some kind of orbital refuel, adds, at least, two-three years of research, development, test time (and huge costs) to a (similar) space program and/or a rocket that works without any orbital refuel.

Another lie of the "space-refuel supporters" is, that, with this technology, all space missions may cost much LESS than, the same missions, accomplished with already fueled rockets and spacecrafts... but, this claim, clearly is completely FALSE, since, the orbital refuel technology needs MORE R&D TIME (at least 2-3 years more than every standard rocket) MORE MONEY (at least 3-5 billion$ more to develop two versions of the Ares-5 second stage, a refuelable EDS, the refuel "tanks", the refuel hardware, the refuel operations in Space, two-three test flights, etc.) and WHEN (and IF...) the "orbital refuel technology" will become real and enough SAFE, reliable, tested and ready to fly in manned missions, the "price" to carry to LEO the Altair+EDS and the propellents with TWO rockets, will be EXACTLY THE SAME or, probably, VERY MUCH HIGHER than carry the Altair and an already fueled EDS in Space with a single, bigger rocket!!!

In other words, the orbital refuel of big rockets and EDS, will become really cheap and interesting ONLY when the propellents will fly in space on very low cost rockets with a price-per-kg. of payload, at least, 5, 10, 30 times LESS than today's rockets, OR when the propellents will be produced by ISRU factories on the Moon.

Two years ago, I've already proposed (in this article) a "minimal" orbital refuel of the Orion's SM to overcome the (still existing) overweight Orion and underpowered Ares-1 issue, launching a partially fueled (then much lighter) Orion, but this "minimal" refuel operation in Space, may need the same R&D extra time and costs of a refuelable EDS, with big and unnecessary risks for the astronauts and (in both SM or EDS refuel) also the risk of an high number of FAILED missions due to long launch delays of one of the Ares-5 rockets, problems to dock the tanks with the SM or EDS, propellents leaks, etc.

So, my 9th suggestion, is to: absolutely avoid to adopt (for now) any kind of orbital refuel because (as clearly and deeply explained above) add this kind of (now unexisting) technology to the ESAS hardware may only increase the R&D time and costs and/or the risks for the astronauts and the number of failed missions due to launch delays and/or failed orbital refuels!

Of course, I suggest to INVEST in the development of the orbital refuel technology, to apply it, someday, when it will become cheap, safe, reliable and economically viable, and I suggest and advocate also the development of a refuelable and reusable Altair, since this is the only kind of orbital refuel that may give big advantages and giant money saving, especially when it will be supplied with lunar ISRU propellents.

 


                                     


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