Outline for Economic Model for the Lunar Community
The Artemis Project has long recognized the requirement for a cis-lunar
(the moon and immediate solar system environment) economic model.
Such a model would provide insights into the effects of different launch costs,
moonbase operations, low-Earth orbit (LEO) operations, and the profit and loss environment for
planned or conceived scenarios.
Rather than being an exercise in economic modelling and planning, the
Cis-Lunar Economic Model (CLEM) should be treated as a working tool, and be biased
in favor of delivering output products that reflect a fairly narrow range of
interests: safety, profit and loss, economic risk, return on investment,
development time/cost/complexity, and resilience of commercial operations.
This document presents a starter framework to aid the Advance Planning
Technical Committee (APTC) to develop the most appropriate model to meet their needs.
The CLEM is not a cis-lunar traffic model, but it would have to include levels
and types of traffic to account for the transportation infrastructure
required by the cis-lunar economy.
This will now be presented as a strawman item to help focus the group's thinking
on a CLEM that is commercially useful, as opposed to being intellectually interesting
Earth ()<-->Transit Space<-->LEO<-->Transit Space<-->LO<-->Transit Space<-->Lunar Surface ()
Fig. 1 presents a simplistic view of the commercial operating environment in terms of
physical locations and mission timeline opportunity spaces.
(It should be noted that all operations should be considered as "missions," since this
implies that considerable support operations will be required for their duration.
This is distinct from, say, a "flight" where the vehicle is largely self-reliant for
much of the travel timeline. Commercial airline travel is the best example of a
technically demanding, but now routine, travel system. Aircraft make use of common
facilities for servicing and flight initiation and turnaround, but are largely
self-contained for the travel period proper. Spaceflight will never achieve this level
of blandness, as there will always be operations which extend the operating area and
envelope. However, as the space environment becomes more mature, it is conceivable that
the LEO frontier would be the first to fall into routine operations, such that
"missions to LEO" become "flights to LEO." Thus, we shall continue to regard all space
environment operations as missions until such time as you can book a seat two hours
before the flight.)
In this linear model of the commercial environment (physical), seven basic operational
areas have been defined: Earth, Transit to LEO, LEO, Transit to Luna,
LO (lunar orbit), Transit to the Lunar Surface, and Lunar Surface Operations.
These areas will now be reviewed briefly, so as to attempt to quantify their place in
the CLEM in terms of their basic characteristics, typical inputs and outputs, and
connectivities with each other in this linear space model, and the more general commercial
and economic environment.
This is our main customer and source of funding. Note that whilst
we may have customers in LEO, or even sharing the lunar surface
environment, until the rise of independent economies outside of
Earth emerge, we will ultimately be dealing with Earth-based customers.
This is the easiest but most competitive economic environment in the
model, and is where we can sell media products, construct and test
hardware, etc. In the spirit of aiming to achieve commercial spinoff
and utilization from all of our operations, this location includes
items such as visitor centers for mission support facilities,
entertainment sites, theme parks, restaurants, and all the rest of
the mass consumer products that are easily delivered and showcased
to the marketplace.
- Transit to LEO:
Regardless of the cost of launch, there remains the potential to
create a market for space capacity on launch and to utilize launch
options. This means that even if the cost of launch falls
dramatically, there is the commercially driven need for a launch at the right time,
or the ability to launch a certain payload. This scenario still operates
in the now-mature commercial airline business where it is commonplace
to find market forces producing airline seat trading minutes
before launch. Thus, there will remain the opportunity for trading of
lift capability as the planned-for reductions in cost and increases in
availability of Earth-LEO transfer facilities increase.
The most proven commercial sector of space, it is still capable of
great expansion even after 30+ years of exploitation. The
key here is to expand the customer base through lower-cost products,
more proprietary (customer-focused) products, and the provision of
highly flexible facilities.
If we are to have a LEO transit station, then this should be
utilized as a platform for the provision of turnkey Earth
observation data, short-lead time data aquisition using steerable
instrumentation, and the provision of upload and down-delivery of
hardware and samples to the LEO environment. The fact that we will
have a relatively high level of transport operations points to a
need to also treat these as opportunities for revenue gathering.
This could almost go to the extent of always allowing a certain
percentage of vehicle mass to be "commercial mass." That is, a
proportion of the vehicle or mission mass is devoted for resale
to recoup part, or perhaps all, of the cost of delivery of the Artemis Project mass.
- Transit to Luna:
The transit market does extend beyond LEO, and the lack of a
perceived market is merely due to the lack of opportunities
outside of LEO for commercial payloads. Artemis Project missions
will provide these opportunities to deliver payloads into solar
orbit or elswhere in the solar system. Immediate markets include
small satellites to provide solar flare warning data, delivery of
science instrumentation, space burial, etc. Transit to Luna requires
complete escape from Earth's gravity field, and hence this is a
distinct market from LEO, and one worth marketing from a position
of frequency of access.
There is also the question of delivery of customer packages to the
lunar surface (i.e., to land at a site chosen and directed by the
customer), which may appear to be in competition with our own
facilities. However, it is in our long-term interests to have a
competitive market, and any opportunity to create profit from the
development of the same is a bonus.
The lunar orbit provides a suitable location for customers interested
in prospecting on Luna, or the planning of manned missions. Delivery
of customer platforms and hardware to LO saves the customer the
risk and cost of a completely independent launch and translunar
injection operation, allowing them to focus on the data aquisition.
The LO environment also offers a potentially better experiment platform
location than LEO. LO offers a better vacuum, less space debris, and
fewer potential restrictions on operations.
Science applications include the potential for long baseline radio
astronomy interferometry with a maintenance-accessible receiver in
LO. This is a new and interesting orbit market, and requires a lot more
study to drive out the commercial opportunities.
Note that in the medium term there would probably be a LO transit
station (at least in the form of a lunar transfer vehicle, or LTV),
which may offer similar facilities to the LEO
transfer station in terms of sites for experimental equipment.
- Transit to Lunar Surface:
This transit phase offers the opportunity to soft-land equipment at
the Artemis Project Moonbase site, or to de-orbit free-flying
equipment for a client. Additionally, there is the option of
allowing the customer complete control of where they land, but the
transit phase provided by the Artemis Project allows them to reduce
their fuel requirements. This would service markets where the customer
wants the equivalent of free (and confidential) choice of lunar landing
zone, but without the overheads of translunar injection complexities
or de-acceleration at Luna. This is an example of making a market out
of a seemingly routine orbital operation. Here, we would be providing
direct reductions in onboard fuel requirements, design complexity, and
reduction of risk for delivering instruments and packages to the lunar
- Lunar Surface Operations:
These encompass the mission goals of the Artemis Project, with other
operations being separated out in a later section in this paper. As an
overview, however, lunar operations can encompass the delivery of
customer packages to the low-gravity environment for emplacement
on the lunar surface, in a lava tube or any other specified area. We
can also look at providing delivery of packages to regions removed
from the Moonbase area, for the purpose of allowing the customer to
obtain science and commercial mining data products. Provision of
data processing and relay services can be undertaken by the
Moonbase via its communications links with Earth. Again, we must
think in terms of trading portions of our own infrastructure to the
commercial market as a means of financing our operations.
The most valuable resource we would be able to offer is on-site
personnel, thus greatly helping the business case for customer
projects, since we can offer repair, adjustment, calibration and
other services normally not available to autonomous lunar surface
- Returns From Lunar Surface to LEO:
Processed items (parts, chemicals, drugs, plants, etc.)
Experienced personnel (non Artemis Project crew)
- Delivery of instruments and packages to a high-vacuum, zero-G environment
- Recovery of instruments and packages from a high-vacuum, zero-G environment
- Space burial
- Near-Earth asteroid (NEA) detection observatories (making use of the
shielding obtained from the Moon in terms of radio interference, Earthshine, and solar radiation
- Delivery of semiconductor manufacturing stations, and recovery of product
- Provision of delivery of packages to lunar surface
- Testing of planetary lander hardware in the field
- Pressurized package operations space
- Data return feeds for instruments
- Habitat space for human personnel
- Habitat space for packages
- Personnel to operate experiments
- Personnel and facilities to maintain packages
- Semi-conductor processing and production
- Special materials processing and production
- Drug production
- Return of regolith and rock material for resale
- Space burial
- Virtual reality robot playgrounds
- Delivery and maintenance of robotic roving vehicles
- Teleoperations test and training facilities
- Capture of scientific data
- Optical astronomy
- Radio astronomy
- SETI research (search for extraterrestial intelligence)
- NEA survey
- Provision of personnel for human factors experiments
- Provision of personnel for media product generation
Much of the following has been guided by the contents of NASA's
Small Spacecraft Technology Initiative (SSTI).
- Urban Planning:
- Detect and determine growth patterns, population, and city expansion.
- Determine optimum urban site for public facilities such as airports,
convention centers, power plants, and the like.
- Assess and project future requirements for regional urban
transportation infrastructures including roads, rail and waterway
systems, mass transit, and large and small airfields.
- Assist utilities in assessing the status of existing systems and
possible future sites for electrical, cable TV, telephone lines, water
and sewer, and energy pipelines.
- Disaster Management:
Assess damage following disasters and to plan mitigation efforts in
the wake of disasters such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes,
earthquakes, and others.
- Other commercial areas:
- Assess land use and existing infrastructure for developers and construction companies.
- Provide risk assessment information for the insurance industry.
- Provide potential land sites for businesses based on urban growth
patterns and transportation data ranging from fast food franchises to
shopping malls located anywhere throughout the globe.
- Provide individual tree counting for the timber industry.
- Science Applications:
- Demonstrate viability of getting X-ray emission data from the Sun
using low mass, moderately cooled instruments for possible future
- Provide continuous global coverage of pollutant sources and their
distribution in the atmosphere.
- Measure astrophysical components of extreme ultraviolet cosmic
background with improved resolution compared to previous
- Provide high spectral and spatial data to complement planned
EOS instruments and directly support science applications for plant
and ocean biology, geology, and polar climatology.
- Provide hyperspectral data for developing and assessing feature
detection and editing concepts, which will furnish value-added
information for EOS-type instrument imagery.
- Assist in crop stress management due to heat, drought and
- Determine crop maturity and the optimum time for harvesting;
especially for high-water value crops such as peas, melons, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables;
- Provide the farmer with pinpoint pesticide and fertilizer requirements
down to the square yard, with potential to lower farming costs by 75%.
- Forestry and Land Management:
- Determine the health and variety of forest species.
- Determine tree diseases and insect infestations which may be affecting stands.
- Determine the effects of harvesting.
- Assist forest managers by providing verification of ground-truth databases.
- Provide tracking information on seasonal watershed changes.
- Provide fire fuel mapping.
- Perform ecosystem characterization covering agricultural forestry and wetlands.
- Provide forest and range mapping.
- Perform forest inventory.
- Environmental Assessment and Compliance:
- Providing data that can be used to enforce compliance with existing environmental regulations.
- Monitor rivers and other watershed areas for evidence of pollution or illegal runoff.
- Monitor the progress of EPA Superfund cleanup sites.
- Monitor urban and rural areas for evidence of illegal or toxic waste dumping.
- Provide the EPA and other local and regional organizations and companies with an
assessment of how well cleanup and compliance activities are
- Assist analysis and assessment of global warming concerns by
providing information about leaf and forest canopy chemistry.
- Measure the effect of oil spills, pollution in the oceans, pipelines,
water contamination, coastal dumping, wetland degradation, and
other water systems.
- Industrial Areas:
- Monitor the ocean color to help fisheries find prime fish harvesting areas.
- Explore for minerals and precious metals based on geological assessment from space.
- Help state, federal, and international law enforcement officials by
providing information about illegal drug crops growing in remote locations.
- Coast and reservoir monitoring and analysis
- Inland wetlands monitoring
- Soil resources inventory; environmental monitoring and
land use applications
- Environmental monitoring and non-point pollutant analysis
- Snow hydrology
- Land use management
- Reservior siting
Environmental monitoring of bays for correlation of bat grass
growth with bay crab yields
There is a proven (e.g., Russian Mir) market for the provision of
mission experience to astronauts sponsored by world governments. The
same would apply to the opportunity to have a national travel to the
moon. Whilst the LEO transport market should reduce costs and the
market price for such transfers, there are still the questions of
limited LEO destinations, and very limited lunar destinations.
We may therefore assume that the lunar surface market would be at
least as well priced as LEO presently is, and possibly command a
higher premium due to the monopoly situation (Mir is not a monopoly
on human space access destinations).
This means that a price of at least $60m times a trading factor of
2.0 might be an appropriate starting figure for the provision of
facilities to get a national to the lunar surface and back.
- We require basic equations or static data tables for the
following modelling parameters:
- Cost of payload launch to LEO transfer orbit per lb.
- Cost of payload trans-lunar injection per lb.
- Cost of payload de-acceleration from LO in a controlled manner per lb.
- Cost of payload soft-land on lunar surface per lb.
- Cost of payload launch from lunar surface to LO per lb.
- Cost of payload trans-Earth injection per lb
- Cost of payload return from LEO to Earth surface soft-land per lb.
- Cost of payload return from LEO to Earth atmosphere with stable
canopy at 40 000 ft per lb.
- Cost of unmanned payload return to Earth surface soft-land per lb.
- Cost of various launch pre-flight operations (integration, etc.)
- Cost of various flight support facilities (e.g., communications,
- Cost of rescue from LEO, from LO, etc.
- Cost of insurance for various mission items, including personnel
- Trading Factors
(These should be some guesstimated factors to apply to equations for
e.g., selling launch payload capacity at short notice in the open or
Note that, for military options, we need to ensure that our operations
are protected from commandeering by a
- General military operations factor
- National security factor
- Disaster relief work (short notice factor)
- General short-notice factors
- Late booking factor
- Monopoly provision factor (i.e., no one else can provide it commercially)
- General market inflation/deflation factor
(accounts for changes in market rates)
- Risk Factors: Standard risk-weightings to be produced from risk
registry and the maintenance thereof.
- Boundary Constraints:
- Personnel protection boundary limit
- Real world boundary limit (prevents singularities, infinities,
and "silly numbers")
- Market research price limit boundary
- Next Steps in the Modelling Process: With the above as a rough framework,
the next stage would be to:
- Develop the equations for the above, and to define a logical framework for
how they would be combined to model all or part of the cis-lunar economy.
[Keeping the various economic markets initially separate (e.g., treat LEO separate
from the trans-lunar market) will help define the interfaces to other markets,
and highlight which markets are naturally internal (e.g., the market for lunar-grown
- The development and maintenance of the model is undertaken by the APTC.
Please refer to the "Related External Web Sites" file
in this section of the ADB for useful reference sources.