I don’t have time to go into detail at the moment, but I wanted to relay an interesting paper that Keith Cowing reported on NASAWatch today. Now, if I were someone at the ESA, I’d probably be taking NASA’s grand plans about Constellation with an appropriate sized grain of salt right about now. But there were some good ideas overall:
- The report mentioned that our ISS experience shows the importance of having redundant transportation methods (ie imagine what would’ve happened to ISS if Soyuz didn’t exist). I don’t think that redundant transportation method should necessarily be another government-centric transportation system, but I agree wholeheartedly that monocultures are a bad idea.
- The report also mentioned that having a safe-haven in LLO is one of the best ways to increase the safety and flexibility of a lunar exploration program. Right now, most of the danger associated with lunar exploration have to do with operations on or near the moon. The current architecture does nothing to reduce those risks, but instead focuses on the much sexier earth-to-orbit transportation risks. Having some infrastructure in LLO can go a long way to fixing that, while also giving you some very interesting mission options. Now, I’m still a fan of the idea of Lagrange stations, and I think that in the long-run they’ll dominate the traffic in the lunar half of cislunar space. I just think that there is a small, and critical niche filled by one or more small polar LLO stations. I’ve been planning to write up my ideas on this concept for over two months now, so can someone poke me in a few weeks if I haven’t followed up on this thought?
- Unlike NASA they don’t seem to be deathly afraid of on-orbit assembly when it makes sense. Of course, they don’t have an HLV fetish that they have to rationalize…
There were a few other good points, but those three were the key ones that stood out to me. Of course they also seem to be missing the importance of propellant transfer, and they seem to be almost as clueless as NASA as far as commercial enterprise is concerned (both why it’s important, and how best to foster real commercial involvment). But it was an interesting read if you have a few minutes.