Seminar Series: Charles F. Radley, Associate Fellow AIAA

“Lunar Surface Operations – Major Cost Reduction By A Lunar Elevator”

On 29th April 2015 Dr Johann-Dietrich Wörner, former head of DLR, announced his intention to align the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a “Moon Village” on the far side of the Moon for radio astronomy and other purposes. On 1st July 2015 Dr. Wörner assumed office as Director General of ESA. This Moon Village would afford the opportunity to establish new infrastructure reducing transport costs. This in turn would enable greatly increased opportunities for lunar science of all kinds.

A lunar elevator can greatly facilitate this vision. Space Elevators are not commonly considered in near-term plans for space exploration, primarily due to a lack of suitable materials for the construction of a Terrestrial space elevator. However, a Lunar Space Elevator (LSE) [1] could be constructed with existing technology and materials, such as Dyneema, Zylon or Magellan-M5. A 48 ton LSE could deployed with a single direct injection launch of SLS or 3 launches of Falcon Heavy [2]. Alternatively, using electric propulsion a single Ariane or Atlas would suffice. An LSE at Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2 (EML2), above the Lunar Farside, offers several advantages over the previously considered LSE at EML1, and could considerably advance the exploration and development of the Farside, supporting Radio Astronomy, providing a communications platform for locations with no line-of-sight to the Earth and a means of early sample return from the Farside. The LSE can most efficiently attach to the lunar surface at the equatorial farside location at 180 degrees longitude, and reduce the cost of soft landing sixfold versus chemical rockets. A lunar elevator investment of $1B pays for itself after twenty payload landing cycles. Throughput will be at least 100 kg every six days. Theoretically throughput could be much higher, perhaps as much as 100 kg every ten hours, however, more detailed engineering analysis is required to verify that maximum capability.

The full abstract can be found here:

The presentation can be seen here.
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