External Tank Fuel Station
The idea of boosting the
external tank of the Space Shuttle to a stable low earth orbit has been
considered for many years. A business plan for an operating Tank Farm was
presented by Taylor[i].
Many of the ideas there are adopted here, but the plan is set within the
context of the staged development of Space infrastructure. The Refueling
business provides the motivation for a fuel collection depot, to be assembled
from STS main tanks, or large ESA / Russian rocket parts. This is the precursor
to the long-discussed External Tank (ET) Space Station. Again, this business
poses considerable hazards and business risk. At its initial stage, it appears
advisable to separate the fuel depot function from the manufacturing / habitat
functions, in view of the risk. In the shorter term, the limited lifetime of
fuel tanker vehicles, the high cost of extracting fuel from expendable
launchers, and the construction cost of the tank farm, make a difficult
business. In the long term, as launcher designs are modified to take advantage
of this business, these costs come down.
2500 kg of fuel per ET
Revenue: $8000/kg of fuel
Development Cost - $800M
Maintenance - $10M
Operation - $10M/ service
Transportation (to retrieve fuel
from ET) - $6000 per kg
Launch Costs determined by $26,000/kg to GEO (source: Futron[ii] ,
$13,000/kg to LEO)
Revenue starts decreasing by 5%, 13 years after start of
[i] Taylor, T.C., "Commercial
Operations For The External Tank In Orbit". AAS 80-089. In McLucas and Sheffield, "Commercial Operations in Space 1980-2000", 18th
Goddard Memorial Symposium, AAS Volume 51, Science and Technology Series,
American Astronautical Society, 1981.
[ii]Futron Corporation. Space
Transportation Costs: Trends in Price Per Pound to Orbit 1990-2000. 6
2002. 22 August 2006.
http://www.futron.com/pdf/FutronLaunchCostWP.pdf Viewed Aug. 23, 2006.