This paper summarizes the molecular-nanotechnology results from a
recent dissertation .
That work assessed the performance of conventional technology and
three levels of molecular nanotechnology (MNT) for space operations.
The measures of effectiveness were technical performance parameters for
five space transportation architectures,
and the total logistics cost for an evaluation scenario with mining,
market and factory locations on the Moon, Mars and asteroids.
Improvements of 2 - 4 orders of magnitude were seen in chemical rockets,
solar electric ion engines, solar sail accelerations (but not transit
times), and in structural masses for planetary skyhooks and towers.
Improvements in tether performance and logistics costs were nearer to 1
order of magnitude. Appendices suggested additional improvements may be
possible in space mining, closed-environment life support, flexible
operations, and with other space transportation architectures. A summary
of these results and their derivation are the primary focus of this
In order to assess logistics cost, that research extended the facility
location problem from location theory to orbital space. That extension
supports optimal siting of a single facility serving circular, coplanar
orbits, locations in elliptic planetary and moon orbits, and heuristic
siting of multiple facilities. It focused on conventional rocket
transportation, and on high performance rockets supplying at least 1
m/s2 acceleration and 500,000 m/s exhaust velocity. Mathematica
implementations are available.
Simple MNT allows diamond and buckytube construction. The main benefits
are in chemical rocket performance, solar panel specific power, solar
electric ion engine performance, and skyhook and tower structural masses.
Complex MNT allows very small machinery, permitting large increases in
solar panel specific power, which enables solar electric ion engines that
are high performance rockets, and thus reduces total logistics costs an
order of magnitude. Most Advance MNT allows molecular manufacturing,
which enables self-repair, provides at least marginal improvements in nearly
every area, and greatly lowers manufacturing costs, providing an additional
order of magnitude reduction in launch costs. The development of MNT would
enable greatly expanded space operations.
 McKendree, 2001, A Technical and
Operational Assessment of Molecular Nanotechnology for Space Operations,
Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering,
School of Engineering, University of Southern California.
Thomas L. McKendree
Industrial & Systems Engineering, University of Southern California
8381 Castilian Drive, Hungtington Beach, CA 92646 USA