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Future human exploration of the moon will require the development of capabilities for in situ resource utilization. Transport of lunar-derived commodities such as fuel and oxygen to orbiting resource depots has been proposed to enable refueling landers or other vehicles. A lunar electromagnetic launch (LEML) system could be an effective means of transporting materials as an alternative to nonrenewable chemical-based propulsion systems. An example LEML concept is presented based on previous studies, existing electromagnetic launch technologies, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's human exploration architecture. A preliminary assessment of the cost versus benefit of such a system is also offered; the conclusion, however, is not as favorable for LEML as originally suggested.
Date of Publication: Jan. 2011