Cost of SSTO Hydrogen Tanker Rockets
In one option for the single-stage-to-the-moon scenario,
we use unmanned rockets to deliver hydrogen fuel to the
moon. These rockets are launched from Earth. The hydrogen
they carry refuels passenger ships on the moon.
The refueling infrastructure for lunar passenger
spacecraft will be relatively low, compared with other
launch costs. Five primary drivers affect the cost of
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- The rockets are about as simple as they can possibly be;
no payload except the rocket itself. No passenger
stuff, no life support, no abort stuff, no hatches,
no doors, no fiddly bits. The only special requirements
are things like tank vents and pressure guages, which we'll
need no matter how we transport the hydrogen fuel.
- No worry over mission duration except boil-off. We might
be able to use a slow-boat orbit to save delta-V, and
hence improve our mass ratio by quite a bit. (I'm not
so sure about this one; what we save in delta-V might be
lost to boil-off if we ship cryogenic hydrogen. Maybe
we can get a double benefit and ship LPG and split it
on the moon.)
- These rockets don't need the redundancy or safety required
for people-carrying spacecraft.
- The tanks, plumbing, pumps, electronics, and maybe even
the rocket engines can be used on the moon, so even the
used-up core of the rocket is a big economic advantage
to the lunar community.
- The great majority of development cost for the tanker
will already be borne in the development of the passenger
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