Monday, April 4, 2011

Recycling the ET's revisited

What can you do with the shuttle derived external tanks, assuming that they will exist in the future?  One thing to keep in mind is that when the shuttle's main engines quit firing, the external tank is 98 percent of orbital velocity.

It wouldn't take much more to get it up to orbital velocity.   I suggest that in future missions, a way should be reserved to keep the ET's in orbit,  as opposed to splashing them into the sea.

Once getting it up there, what do you do with it?  I've gone over that in previous posts.  Here's another idea, and hopefully, I can keep it real.  Let's say that you attach a propulsion device that can gradually lift the ET out of Earth orbit, and place it in lunar orbit.  Then, once in lunar orbit, send it to the surface at a predesignated spot and control crash it.  Why?  In order to obtain its materials for use on the lunar surface.

ET's weigh over 50,000 pounds.  That's a lot of metal which won't have to be mined from the lunar surface and processed.  It just needs to be melted down and recast into a useful product for use on the moon.

The Russians control crashed at least one of their lunar probes.  I believe the technique involves using an explosion that will slow down the craft and allow it to land at speed which would not cause too much damage to the probe.  Since the mission is to impart materials to the lunar surface, the condition of the tanks when they land is not that important.  Only that they are salvageable for some purpose.

What propulsive device?  Let's look at VASIMR.  This program is nearly operational.  Attach a VASIMR to an ET and send it to the moon.   Then do a in situ salvaging operation on what's left.

If the VASIMR will be powerful enough to keep the ISS in orbit, it may well be powerful enough to do this job.  It will take awhile, but it would be unmanned, so there's no big hurry.

No comments:

Post a Comment