This study assesses the cost of constructing lunar landing pads and examines whether certain construction methods are more cost-effective than others. Some proposed solutions require huge amounts of materials transported from Earth, while others require considerable energy consumption on the lunar surface and take a long time to build. Each of these adds direct and indirect expenses to lunar activities.
The most important economic variables turn out to be the cost of transportation to the lunar surface and the magnitude of program delay cost imposed by a construction method. The cost of an airstrip is highly dependent on optimizing the mass and speed of construction equipment, so a set of minimum cost equipment exists for each construction method in a scenario economical specified. Several scenarios were analyzed across a range of transport costs with high and low program delay costs.
It turns out that microwave sintering is currently the most favorable method for constructing the inner high-temperature zone of a lunar landing pad, although other methods are within the range of uncertainty. The most favorable method for constructing the low temperature outer zone of the landing pad is also sintering when transportation costs are high, but it switches to polymer infusion when transportation costs fall below of about $110,000/kg to the lunar surface.
It is estimated that the Artemis Basecamp could construct a landing pad with a budgeted cost of $229 million assuming transportation costs will be reduced slightly from the current rate of $1 million/kg on the lunar surface to 300,000 dollars/kg. A landing pad drops to $130M when the transport cost drops to $100,000/kg, or to $47M if the transport costs fall below $10,000/kg. Ultimately, landing pads can be built around the Moon at very low cost, thanks to economies of scale.
Summary of news:
- A business study of construction methods and cost of lunar landing platforms
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