A Value Proposition for Lunar Architectures Utilizing Propellant Re-supply Capabilities
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The NASA Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS)ⁱⁱ produced a transportation architecture for returning humans to the moon affordably and safely while using commercial services for tasks such as cargo delivery to low earth orbit (LEO). Another potential utilization of commercial services is the delivery of cryogenic propellants to LEO for use in lunar exploration activities. With in-space propellant re-supply available, there is the potential to increase the payload that can be delivered to the lunar surface, increase lunar mission durations, and enable a wider range of lunar missions. The addition of on-orbit propellant resupply would have far-reaching effects on the entire exploration architecture. Currently 70% of the weight delivered to LEO by the cargo launch vehicle is propellant needed for the TLI burn. This is a considerable burden and significantly limits the design freedom of the architecture. The ability of commercial providers to deliver cryogenic propellants to LEO may provide for a less expensive and better performing lunar architecture.