NASA recently selected three private companies to send robotic landers to the Moon to study the surface and set the stage for both NASA’s astronaut missions to the Moon and future private ventures to the Moon. It is no coincidence that this comes quick on the heels of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s announcement that an Orion capsule named Artemis 3 will put American astronauts on the Moon in 2024. Contenders for the lander include Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Blue Origin.
July 20 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first-ever Moon landing, but there is more to this returned interest than nostalgia. In January, the Chinese landed a lunar rover on the far side of the Moon. Also, the world’s fifth largest economy, India, has a plan to explore the Moon’s South Pole — which would make it the fourth country to “soft land” on the Moon’s surface.
These programs are realistic, and it’s an exciting time to root for astronauts everywhere because innovative companies are creating modern space transportation and an “in-orbit” economy that is far less expensive than in decades prior. Momentus’ own Vigoride Extended service, which will be commercially available in less than two years, will be able to carry up to 200 kg to lunar orbit from piggyback launch for a total transportation cost of well under $20M. Our Ardoride service will be able to carry up to two tons to lunar orbit from a larger piggyback launch.
While private venture pushes down cost to innovate and speeds R&D, the stakes for huge players in telecommunications, energy production and more are higher than ever. The size of the world telecommunications market is already an impressive $1.5 trillion, or almost 1.5% of the world economy. Several factors including a sharp increase in the consumption of multimedia content by passengers of moving vehicles and the rapid growth of the Internet of Things is expected to drive satellite telecommunication services to grow to at least $2.5 trillion within the next few years.
A Lunar Gold Rush
Our Founder and CEO, Mikhail Kokorich, has been quoted as saying that water will cause a “gold rush” in space. Others have said that while oil fueled the industrial revolution, water in space will fuel space industrialization for the good of Earth and all humanity. Water is the propellant that will drive the pace of progress set by a new breed of space companies.
Water is needed in space for many purposes. For example, today the crew of the space station consumes a few tons per year of water. In the coming decade as more nations and space tourists travel to low Earth orbit and then to the Moon, human consumption of water will grow exponentially. Water will also be used as radiation shielding, for production of breathable air, and of course as the main constituent of rocket propellants.
At the end of our first few orbital service missions we will move our satellite shuttle vehicles into disposal orbits. Very soon thereafter on subsequent missions we plan to return our vehicles to orbital water propellant depots after each mission where we will replenish propellant, pick up additional independently launched payloads, and provide even better service for our customers. Each vehicle will be used for several missions prior to disposal.
In the not too distant future our water depots will be supplied not from the Earth, but from resources harvested from near Earth asteroids or the polar regions of the Moon. Recently our CTO, Joel Sercel, has been selected by NASA to lead the design of a Lunar Polar Mining Outpost to figure out how to harvest water from the Moon for propellant.
Yes, the Moon matters!!