ISRU technology deployment at a lunar outpost in 2040: A Delphi survey

Spedding, Christopher P.; Lim, Sungwoo and Nuttall, William J. (2021). ISRU technology deployment at a lunar outpost in 2040: A Delphi survey. Acta Astronautica (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2021.01.009

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to deploy a Delphi expert elicitation methodology to better understand the technical and policy challenges facing the development of a sustainable lunar outpost in 2040, including the types and scale of ISRU deployment. We used a three-round Delphi survey with an open first round and specific questions in later rounds using a four-point Likert scale and two ranking exercises to assess energy technologies and inhibiting factors. In order to provide more certainty to our potential participants regarding their input, and boost engagement, the study deployed a three-round approach that was communicated to our potential participants and decided ex-ante. Potential participants were identified from the literature and academic networks as those who had made significant contributions to the fields of; ISRU technologies, space architecture, space-qualified power systems, and space exploration. The study identified around 20 major themes of interest for researchers in the first round and asked participants to rate their agreement with a number of statements about a hypothetical lunar outpost in 2040. From the group responses, we identified three major technical challenges for the development of a lunar outpost in 2040; developing high power energy infrastructure, lander and vehicle ascent capacity, and mission architectures and technical approaches. We also identified three major policy challenges for the development of a lunar outpost in 2040; US and global political instability, possibility of an extended timeframe for the first lunar landing, and political distaste for nuclear energy in space. The group was uncertain about the precise energy mix at the outpost as a result of uncertainty regarding electrical loads, but there was general agreement that solar PV would be a significant contributor. Whether nuclear power sources might play a useful role proved to be very uncertain, with some participants noting a political distaste for space nuclear power systems. However, the proposition gained two votes in each ranking position, suggesting it has a flat distribution including both supporters and detractors.

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