Multi-Crew Modules

.The purpose of NASA’s missions is not to maximize the number of people sent into space, but to maximize their scientific or exploration utility. But we have an economic concern about how many people are paying for how many seats. We need to maximize the number of human beings per launch into orbit to sustain the economic return vis-à-vis launch costs for the startup of this embryonic space tourism industry..

Buzz Aldrin – Personal Notes on Developing the Concept of Multi-crew Modules, August 17, 2003.

Buzz is a long-time advocate for sending greater numbers of people into space while being cost effective and environmentally efficient.

Currently, launching a commercial “spacelines” carrier for parties of 40 to 50, or even 100, people into Earth orbit is far too costly for the embryonic space tourism industry to take on without government support, subsidies and coordinated efforts with NASA’s space program.

That is one reason why a “space imperative” was recommended in the Final Report by Buzz and his fellow presidential appointees on the 2002 Commission on the Future of the US Aerospace Industry. It mandated a partnership between NASA and the aerospace industry to develop technologies to “open up new opportunities for public space travel and commercial space endeavors.”

However, the focus changed considerably for NASA on February 1, 2003—just two months after the Commission’s Final Report was published—when the Columbia Shuttle was lost along with her crew of seven during re-entry.

In the post-Columbia accident environment, Buzz began to devise a means to sustain NASA’s need for a limited number of crew-members per launch, and also achieve the goal of commercially launching more people into space.

Historically all launches of human beings into space have carried a crew size of 1 to 3 people (Russia, China and all US pre-Shuttle launches), or a crew of 7 in the case of the US Shuttle program. In addition, all human launches have been on one rocket launch vehicle and one spacecraft.

Innovative thinker that he is, Buzz considered the possibility of launching more than one crew module on one launch vehicle. As a result, he developed the concept and design for “Multi-crew Modules.” Under the concept, one heavy lift launch vehicle could launch up to 6 separate eight-person crew modules, for a total of 48 people.

The crew modules could be mounted in a variety of ways, such as in a pod along the length of the launch vehicle. Each eight-person crew module would separate from the launch vehicle at the designated staging into Earth orbit and embark on its respective mission, and then return to Earth separately for its runway landing.

In addition to economies of scale benefits, Buzz’s Multi-crew Modules would allow parallel launch teams to launch both NASA missions and private sector missions from the same launch pad, and fulfill the partnership mandate essential to opening future opportunities for public space travel.

Buzz filed for a patent on December 16, 2003, in order to “put forth the concepts of multiple crew-modules per single rocket launch, in contrast to the history of manned spaceflights where there is one crew module and one launch vehicle.” The US Patent and Trademark Office awarded the patent for “Multi-crew Modules for Space Flight” to Dr. Aldrin on December 7, 2004.