A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF FUTURE SPACE ORBITAL TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS
Long, Bryan P.
Rhoades, Mark M.
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This thesis conducts a comparative analysis of future Orbital Transportation Systems (OTS). Near future rocket advancements are compared to future capabilities of a well-documented non–rocket based OTS, the space elevator transportation system. Technical and geopolitical impacts of both systems to future space exploration and the space industry are analyzed. Recent multiple new entrants into the space rocket industry are developing larger payload capacity rockets and driving down the cost per kg to orbit. These advances will lead to major improvements in the way spacecraft and satellite engineers will design their future systems with fewer payload constraints and lower total mission cost constraints. While beneficial, these advancements in rockets could have an adverse effect on the continuing efforts to develop alternate OTSs, such as the space elevator, by reducing the research and design (R&D) funding available for those systems. A space elevator offers the promise of consistent daily to-orbit transportation with a very large payload capacity at an extremely inexpensive cost. For these reasons, the space elevator system is worth the continued R&D investment to address major technical challenges in its continued development.
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