The president and CEO of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) say that the government should increase rocket propellants’ production in space. After all, it is possible to do that from lunar ice. He said that if the government were to do the same at a scale, it would positively impact the space economy. It would also mean possible human life on Mars and the moon.
Speaking in the Beyond Earth Institute’s webinar, Bruno said a need to have a self-sustaining cislunar economy. The non-profit organization which focuses on how public policy affects the living and working in space had scheduled the webinar for October 13. According to Bruno, the strategic propellant reserve would be a great stimulation to a robust cislunar economy.
ULA has already developed corresponding economic models. They show that if the government were to invest $20 billion, it would have scaled to $3 million come 2050. The amount would be enough for space tourism, transportation, mining as well as manufacturing.
If there were a way of producing fuel in space would decrease the current exorbitant cost of transport to and from space. The fact that there are over 20 billion metric tons of ice on the moon means that it is possible to produce propellants large scale. The availability of water almost everywhere is a beacon of home. It is easy to convert the water into liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. It is no secret that they are used to propel rockets.
Since the raw materials are available, Bruno says what is lacking is the mining infrastructure. Also, once the conversion takes place, there will be a need to distribute and transport it. ULA already has a go-ahead from the National Space Council to study it further. That’s after pitching the idea to its users’ advisory council.
Bruno also adds the availability of precious metals in space. They include platinum, silver, and gold, which could transform Earth’s economy if exploited. The propellant reserve will serve a purpose similar to the U.S. government set up in the 1970s. The same way it can help its economy for 90 days, the space propellant reserve needs space fuel to fuel lunar vehicles for two years. That will decrease the chances of an interruption of transport to and from Mars.
At the moment, despite proving launch services, ULA is yet to venture into in-depth space exploration. However, if the cislunar space’s investment would happen, that would be a venture worth getting into, no doubt. The company would build a three-stage “Vulcan Heavy” rocket. It would be larger than the single-core Vulcan Centaur it is developing, awaiting its launch next year. He said that he couldn’t predict the demand for a heavier Vulcan. Nevertheless, if that were to happen, ULA would be ready to deliver.