Obital propellant depot. Image: NASA
Robust space infrastructure includes not only crew habitats and the life support and power needed to operate them, but also the equipment that gives a space facility or base the ability to support what the crew is doing. This includes science, spacecraft and logistics operations, support for construction of additional bases in space and on the Moon, Mars and asteroids. Space offers some major challenges for the operation and use of electronics, computers and communications and data transmission systems, but it also offers some major opportunities. Improvements are needed in a variety of areas specific to space applications.
COMPONENTS (types of infrastructure)
Infrastructure to support extended and cost effective human operations in space requires the design, deployment and operational use of components including:
- Reusable spacecraft (such as space tugs) that are operated and refueled in space.
- Propellant depots that will allow spacecraft to be reused and refueled in space and will support such robust activities.
- A cryocooler, sunshade and propellant insulation system that can achieve Zero Boil Off (ZBO) conditions for large cryogenic propellant depots.
- Automated and teleoperated robotic systems for construction, operations (including logistics), and maintenance of infrastructure and habitats in space, on asteroids, and on planetary surfaces.
- Power transfer via wireless power transmission from one space location to another.
- High bandwidth interplanetary communications systems.
- Current lack of large, proven cryo-cooler systems for cryogenic propellant depots in microgravity.
- Current lack of proven technology to transfer cryogenic liquids between non-accelerating and non-rotating objects in space.
- Lack of software needed to safely operate external robotic systems in a manner similar to assembly line robots.
- Lack of sophisticated telepresence systems to allow direct human operation of external robots as needed for construction and logistics.
This milestone can be considered achieved when a logistics base demonstrates the ability to dock several pressurized and non-pressurized space vehicles, to move cargo from one vehicle to another with a robot, and to store sufficient cryogenic propellants to enable the operation of space transport vehicles.
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