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Selenian Boondocks

An Updated Propellant Depot Taxonomy

16 Sep 2020, 01:28 UTC
An Updated Propellant Depot Taxonomy
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After way too many years in the wilderness, the concept of orbital propellant depots and in-space refueling in general, are finally beginning to be taken seriously again in public circles. A couple of examples include: Elon’s announcement that he is building his Mars architecture around RLVs and propellant depots, NASA’s baselining of in-space refueling as part of their Artemis lunar return program, even the most recent NASA Tipping Points solicitation1 had Cryogenic Fluid Management Technology Demonstration (active cooling, transfer, and pressure management) as one of its three topics. There are also now several startups out there explicitly focused on orbital propellant depots including my friends at OrbitFab, my friend Dallas Bienhoff’s company Cislunar Space Development Company, and also my startup, Altius Space Machines2.

Those of you who’ve been following this blog over the years have probably seen a lot of my previous thoughts on the topic. But I’ve been realizing that there are now a lot of new people becoming interested in the topic, and during some recent conversations on Twitter, I realized that it might be helpful to share some of my thoughts on the different types of propellant depots, and key considerations for each type of depot (things ...

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