A Utility Infrastructure Concept at the Lunar South Pole: Establishing a Sustainable Foothold to Economize Lunar Exploration
This project proposes a lunar infrastructure concept that aims to accelerate lunar exploration at the south pole by extending the range, duration, and reliability of missions in the region. This consists of an initial network of four autonomously deployed power and communications towers distributed at four high points within the Artemis candidate landing zones. The nodes provide constant communications services including teleoperation, data transfer, surface navigation and telemetry as well as solar power generation and transfer. In order to determine this as an appropriate utility, research into the concept of sustainability in the context of lunar exploration is provided. The research highlights the contrast between NASA’s Artemis Program’s approach with the Apollo Program, investigates the historical lunar exploration missions and their proven technologies and the technologies planned for upcoming missions. It explores various aspects of a lunar programs, including launch vehicles, unmanned robotic missions, and infrastructure plans, and provides insights for future endeavors in this area. To define a sustainable lunar architecture, attributes were discerned in terms of environmental, programmatic, and financial factors and traits. The network seeks to align with the Artemis Program’s scientific and exploration goals and objectives. These include to return humanity to the Moon and establish a long-term presence through international partnerships and private sector involvement. One of the priority scientific objectives is the investigation of frozen surface water ice and other volatiles in the permanently shadowed regions. The confirmation and characterization of these elements will have a great impact on future exploration and development of human space flight and exploration. The networks concept both works to enable these goals and contend with the unique challenges presented by the environment of the lunar south pole. An analysis of these site factors and a case for communications as a priority utility is presented including a comparison of communications concepts and alternatives. Finally, priority sites are identified. Considering the sustainable traits, site selection and utility need a notional tower design is provided as well as a robust calculation of the area of coverage provided by the network. The project concludes with a brief discussion of the services this network could provide and the impact an infrastructure first strategy could have on future missions.