This segment of our website is devoted to what we believe is the most practical way to build the High Frontier Outpost. Many of these concepts are subject to change based on new and developing technologies. In many cases there are several different methods that could be employed. We will attempt to document all viable alternatives adding new developments as we hear of them.
While the High Frontier Outpost itself would be constructed primarily of asteroidal material, the factory ship that would build the modules would be constructed near the Earth. Depending on the state of space exploration at the time and the manufacturing facilities available it could be constructed in either Earth or Lunar orbit. Another possibility would be at one of the Lagrange points where the Earth-Moon gravity cancel out. There are several launch systems that could be used to bring material to the construction. The most mature technology is chemically fueled heavy lift rockets such as the Falcon Heavy from SpaceX, the New Glenn from Blue Origin and the Space Launch System (SLS) from NASA.
A second possibility is not based on chemical reactions at all but on an Earth based power source. In the 1970s Dr. Gerard O’Neil developed what is known as Mass Driver 1 which consisted of a series of electromagnetic coils activated in sequence to propel a magnetic permeable substance to high velocity.
In Brazil, near the border of Venezuela is a mountain called Pico da Neblina located close to the equator. A spacecraft launched from the equator benefits from a free acceleration boost due to the Earth’s rotation. A mass driver powered by a nuclear power plant could be built in such a way that is curved up the face of Mt. Neblina. Such a system would be capable of launching many tons of material into orbit on a daily basis. The major advantage of this system is the separation of the vehicle from the propulsion energy source eliminating huge fuel tanks and rocket engines. Unfortunately, due to the extreme acceleration involved no people could survive being launched this way. Personnel would be launched in conventional means such as the SpaceX capsule and Virgin Galactic Orbit.
The assembly of the factory ship is a dress rehearsal for the construction of the High Frontier Outpost. While many of the components could be pre-constructed on Earth or Lunar factories, the assembly of the ship itself would be done by semi-autonomous robots operating such equipment as mobile 3D printers. The ship would include three assembly bays to be equally distant spaced around the periphery of the central core. The factory would be capable of taking the raw materials such as lunar regolith and asteroidal fragments and processing them into the products required for the construction of the habitat.
Many of these techniques are currently being developed for use on the Moon, Mars and the larger asteroids. This would also provide an opportunity to test the asteroid mining ships. These ships are to be programmed to collect smaller asteroids and bring them back for processing by the factory ship.
Asteroid Mining Ships
The mining ships are to be sent out to the asteroid belt or near earth asteroids using either direct fusion drive or NERVA engines which would shorten the trip to months instead of years.
The continually advancing field of AI is a critical component of the High Frontier Outpost. The factory ship, asteroid ships, 3D printers, and even the modules of the habitat itself will all contain some form of artificial intelligence. In a situation where the ship would operating under extreme conditions with a possibility of component failure there would need to be three identical machines each receiving the same input and having identical programming. The machines decision would be made by consensus. In the case of one machine producing a different result, the decision would be settled by the equivalent of a vote with the two machines that concurred authorizing the decision. This system has been used and proven in previous space flights.
Mounted on the asteroid miners would be a large bank of sophisticated sensors in order to select the proper raw materials. They would have to be able to locate an asteroid, determine its composition, match speed and trajectory, and depending on its size, either collect it or lock onto it. They would have to have sufficient power to overcome the inertia of a large mass, bring it back and dock with the factory ship in a controlled manner. This would all have to be done without humans aboard and at a distance where teleoperation is impractical.
Construction of the Habitat
The High Frontier Outpost would be built using modular components. Each module would be in the form of a slightly tapered hexagon so that when they are joined together they would following the curve of the shell of the outpost.
Each module would be self-contained with its own independent life support system, power generation system, and even a small propulsion unit. After the first module is constructed the modules would be added in groups of three to maintain balance while the units are rotated around the central axis of the initial module providing a terrestrial gravity type environment.
The modules themselves would be constructed of smaller modules in a manner similar of the construction of an ocean-going cruise ship today. This would mean that special purpose modules such as residential, lab, factory, etc., could be easily designed, assembled and installed.
The 3D printers that will be used for the High Frontier Outpost would need to be mobile and capable of depositing multiple materials. They should also be capable of pick-and-place of components in the 3D printing structure. Some of these printers would require the capability of maneuvering in zero gravity conditions. Others will need capability of moving under the 1-g environment of the rotating habitat. They need to be able to accurately orient themselves in their work environment in order to be capable of assembling sub-systems in larger modules. There will be a need of several sizes of mobile printers and printers that can handle a wide range of materials.
The High Frontier Outpost is constructed of hexagonal modules. Each would be a tapered hexagon 300 ft. across in its upper surface and 500 ft. long. The wide end would, when fully assembled, form the outside shell of the habitat. Each module is designed to be self-contained, capable of supporting life on its own for a limited period. All entrances to the modules are to be constructed so they are usable as airlocks. Each module would have its own propulsion system capable of limited maneuverability. In the event that the entire outpost would need to be moved the individual propulsion unit of the modules could be operated together to provide the thrust to move the outpost. Each module would have power generating facilities. Each would contain food, water, air, and maintenance supplies. These would be stored in the “upper” levels of the module so their mass would contribute radiation shielding. The top most level would contain bulk material such as the lunar regolith. This would provide the main radiation shielding. Each module would have its own AI controller with triple redundancy. The modules are to be designed so that they would be made from a series of smaller modular units that could be configured as labs, factories, residences or other special purpose units.