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These Guys Are Planning the Ultimate Fuel Station Network. In Space
Once the Artemis Moon exploration program gets going, humanity’s efforts to colonize the solar system will really spring into life. With Artemis, and adjacent projects like the Gateway lunar space station, a wealth of privately funded projects will get going as well, making our planet’s satellite the first space El Dorado. And one of these privately funded projects belongs to a startup called Quantum Space.

These Guys Are Planning the Ultimate Fuel Station Network. In Space

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The company was created just a year ago (2021), born from the minds of Axiom Space founder Kamal Ghaffarian, former NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk, and NASA’s Exploration and In-Space Services at Goddard Space Flight Center division chief Ben Reed.

Quantum’s stated goal is to create a series of modular, serviceable, platforms to serve the needs of upcoming lunar economy. They will be, if you like, space-floating service centers, refueling stations, cargo swapping stations, you name it.

Fully robotized (meaning they’ll not require people onboard to operate), these Commercial Lunar Robotic Outposts, as they’re for now called, will be used to enhance the capabilities of visiting spacecraft through “vehicle rendezvous and capture, payload swapping, test bed activities, refueling,” as per the statements of the company.

Made public in February 2022, the plan for Commercial Lunar Robotic Outposts is not yet fully detailed, but given the increasing interest in lunar activities, we thought it’s best to have a closer look at the concept from its early stages.

We do not know at the moment the size of these outposts, or their exact specs. From what Quantum already made available, we’re looking at some sort of modular satellite that can be equipped with a variety of tools needed for whatever tasks its users will envision it for. Solar panels are featured, as with any space-faring piece of hardware, but we have no details on their exact specs.

Because they will use industry standard interfaces, the Outposts will be capable of docking with visiting spacecraft and provide payload hosting and logistics services. Separately, because they can host multiple payloads at the same time, they could be used as testbeds for various technologies and experiments, launch platforms for other spacecraft, and even deploy other satellites.

Quantum plans to launch, two years from now, in 2024, the first Outpost. The mission, titled Quantum Scout, is a sort of proof of concept, and will focus on demonstrating critical remote sensing capabilities from Earth-Moon L1 – Lagrange points are seen as a potential deployment area for these things as well.

This first satellite (and probably the other ones as well) is an ESPA-class, meaning it carries an adapter for launching secondary payloads. For this one, Quantum says, “activities are in full swing on the mission design, delivering payloads and spacecraft, and establishing a payload operations center.”

The Scout mission will be used to prove technologies for remote sensing, space domain awareness, space weather data collection, cislunar navigation, and autonomous station keeping.

For all intents and purposes, hearing of someone working on such technologies for use in the lunar environment is nothing but good news. In its current state, humanity here on Earth cannot function without the help of the thousands of satellites currently in orbit, and any plans of making the Moon really count for something in our civilization would require nothing less.

‘We envision a future where innovation and sustainability meet propelling human progress, economic growth and expanding access to space, and its vast ability to improve life on Earth. Quantum Space will be a leader in building this new future by rethinking how we approach spacecraft and space services,” said back in February when the project made its first public outing Kamal Ghaffarian.

We'll update this story as soon as more details on these satellite will become available.

 
 
 
 
 

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