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Selenian Boondocks

Random Thoughts: Lunar Magneto-Lithobraking

3 Aug 2015, 20:27 UTC
Random Thoughts: Lunar Magneto-Lithobraking
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

One of the big challenges in lunar exploration and development is the amount of delta-V needed get down to the surface and back again. On planets like Earth, and to a lesser extent Mars, spacecraft can dump momentum into the atmosphere for aerocapture, aerobraking, or aeroentry. The atmosphere does add some cost to the launch from those planets, but it provides a lot of benefit for landing. While the Moon’s gravity well isn’t that deep, it is enough that the rocket equation makes landing and return from the moon costly enough to be worth looking at alternatives. A purely rocket propulsion method for getting material to and from the Moon is a lot harder to close economically than when you can “cheat” and do a large chunk of that ascent/descent propellantlessly. While there are a lot of great ideas for propellantless launch from the Moon1, there are a lot fewer options for propellantless soft-landing on the Moon. And very few of those are completely non-crazy.
One of the earliest such propellantless landing ideas I’ve seen was from space visionary Krafft Ehricke, where he suggested landing spacecraft horizontally using skids on a long, pre-cleared but unpaved landing strips.2 Momentum would be ...

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