The Most Efficient Transportation Architecture (META)

This page describes a fairly near-term transportation architecture between Earth and the Moon and Mars for both cargo and crew.

VIDEO: (meta.mpeg) The Most Efficient Transportation Architecture (META)
This video was presented at the Mars Society Convention (15May16)
PRESETATION: (meta.pptx) The Most Efficient Transportation Architecture (META)

DOCUMENT: (meta.doc) The Most Efficient Transportation Architecture (META)

Cargo is launched using the least expensive (per kg) launcher from Earth to LEO. For example, a partially-reusable Falcon Heavy would deliver payload to LEO at about $2,940/kg. Then, the cargo module separates from the launcher and ion engines slowly spiral the cargo from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to the low orbits of the Moon (LLO) or Mars (LMO) at about $4,000/kg. Subsequently, a ferry (i.e. lander) refueled from local resources on the Moon and Mars ascend to their low orbits, dock with the cargo module and retrieves it to the surface. The cost per kg on the surfaces depends on a variety of factors including how many times the ferries can be reused.

Credit: Link

For crew, launchers from Earth have to push their capsules through the Van Allen radiation belts to a rendezvous point such as EML1. If going to the Moon, a refueled lunar ferry ascends to EML1, receives the crew module (e.g. capsule) and then descends to the Moon. For Mars, the crew capsule launched from Earth would need to dock with with an interplanetary craft at the EML rendezvous point. A modest chemical push sends the interplanetary craft and capsule on Hohmann trajectory to Mars. Approximately 20 cm of polyethylene around the quarters where the crew spends their sedentary time would be sufficient to keep the crew within their career limits. The travel time to Mars would be about what is spent on the ISS.


The lunar and Martian ferries would be different than each other because there is significant benefit for the Martian lander to 'surf' the atmosphere to reduce the amount of landing propellant needed.

Credit: Link
Credit: Link
Credit: Link
Credit: Link
Credit: Link

In order to minimize the amount of mass that would need to be launched from Earth, part of the META transportation architecture includes the production of 'basic materials' off Earth. The most important product would be water for propellant and life support. With time, more and more products will be produced including plant food, organic chemicals (e.g. plastics), metals, glass, etc.

In the end, mass launched from Earth would be completely dedicated to passengers, complex parts, and in-transit consumables.

Next Topic: Moon & Mars Simultaneously