Asteroid-COTS: Developing the cislunar economy with private-public partnerships

Citation data:

Space Policy, ISSN: 0265-9646, Vol: 39, Page: 14-19

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Carlos M. Entrena Utrilla
Elsevier BV
Social Sciences; Economics, Econometrics and Finance; Earth and Planetary Sciences
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case description
NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program showed the potential of private-public partnerships (PPPs) to reduce cost of access to space, producing two launch vehicles and cargo capsules in record time and with a factor 20 cost reduction. This program was followed by the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), aiming to provide affordable human access to space, which should end in 2017 with the first flight of a commercial crew capsule. The same team that created COTS is now proposing the Lunar Commercial Orbital Transfer Services (LCOTS) program, with the goal of developing cislunar capabilities, establish a human outpost on the Moon, and reduce cost and risk for future Mars missions. Private-public partnerships seem to be becoming NASA's tool of choice to develop affordable human access to space, increase capabilities, and incentivize the private space sector for a much lower cost than previous approaches. This paper wants to expand the use of the COTS-like programs by developing a concept of a COTS program for asteroid mining, simply referred to as Asteroid-COTS, or ACOTS for short. The paper uses the same methodology of the proposed LCOTS program, proposing a phased-development approach and evaluating which capabilities should be included in the program with a similar scheme. The result is a high-level ACOTS proposal with several synergies with the LCOTS program, and which could lead to the creation of a cislunar infrastructure to support permanent human presence in space.