LEO Staging Base
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Cost Effectiveness of LEO Staging Base vs. ISS

International Space Station

Until we've done a detailed cost analysis, we really won't know for sure whether it's less expensive to use the space station or to build an assembly fixture in a low-inclination orbit. We do lose about 10,000 lbs of payload to go to that higher-inclination orbit, but we have to weigh that against the cost of the assembly fixture. Using the Titan IV launcher, it looks like we'd have enough payload margin to rendezvous with the station anyway.

The big cost driver is launch. With launch costs coming down, we might anticipate that the development cost for a new LEO facility could become significant, even one as simple as the facility we've envisioned.

Another big driver is the cost of getting anything certified to approach the International Space Station. Several commercial space flight companies have looked into using the ISS as a base for their operations, only to find that they would have to spend more money certifying their spacecraft to operate in the vicinity of the ISS than they spent on developing and operating their craft. This tends to drive commercial space flight to use other facilities, to the detriment of the International Space Station program.

LEO staging base for lunar spacecraft

The International Space Station is still a very attractive option since it comes with so many resources, including the potential for earning some money by using the LTV as a laboratory or free-flying servicing vehicle based at the station between moon flights. One of its best features is that it allows our crew to loiter in Earth orbit almost indefinitely if they run into a glitch while assembling the moon vehicle.

We haven't even asked NASA yet whether they like this idea, so nothing is decided. With Mr. Goldin saying things like, "I wish commercial enterprise would be more commercial" we might expect that NASA would want to be very accommodating toward commercial space flight. However this does not appear to be the case. This is the sort of help NASA and the International Partners could provide without having to ask the taxpayers for the money to do something really cool in space; but they're not doing it. Yet.

LEO Staging Base

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