Space Logistics is already here and there are many commercial companies like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation that are already launching commercial and military payloads into low earth orbit on Rockets. Historically, all of these launches were once managed by national space agencies like NASA, ESA and Roscosmos, which used rockets like the Proton K Rocket and the legendary US Space Shuttle to deliver payloads into low earth orbit (LEO). But as technology has developed, new rockets have been developed by new commercial companies, which can now deliver bigger payloads into low earth orbit for a lower cost. The commercial competition, which has transformed global seafreight and airfreight operations over the last 40 years has finally reached space operations and true space logistics has finally arrived. Commercial Space logistics flight operation can learn a lot from successful seafreight and airfreight operations as there are lot of similarities as they are all delivering cargo to a distant location.
Lets go back in time…..The International Space Station (ISS), first component called Zarya was launched in 1998 using a Russian Proton K Rocket. The last component was bolted onto the ISS was the IDA or International Docking Adaptor in 2016 using a Falcon 9 from SpaceX. The International Space Station used over 30 launches in an 18year period. Many of these launches used the now retired Space Shuttle which had the ability to take off like a rocket, but glided home like an aircraft.
But the Space Shuttle and Proton K cargo lift capacity were both limited to approximately 22,700kg (22.7 Tonnes) . If you look through history, the United States, Russia, China and the European Union have all used conventional launch systems to blast payloads into low earth orbit. All of these payloads were designed to fit into these launch vehicle payload bays.
Global logistics operations work in the same way. Seafreight shipments can be packed into standard Seafreight Box Containers, whose size ranges from 20ft, 40ft to 45ft in length. Flat-Rack containers can carry larger cargo types, but these Flat Racks also range in size from 20ft to 45ft in length. Even larger cargo can be shipped on bulk or specialized vessels.
Airfreight also works in the same way. Air freight today uses various types of Unit Load Device (ULD) to carry the shippers cargo. These ULDs are basically are basically aluminum or steel containers, which have been designed to carry the shipper cargo and fit inside modern commercial aircraft. Out of gauge cargo can also be flown on dedicated cargo aircraft such as the Antonov AN124 or the Boeing 747F.
Global logistics operations lays at the heart of all global trade. Every country in the world benefits from global trade and the numerous import and export operations in distant locations. Global Logistics logic also brings the world together as it uses the same equipment and terminology. A 20ft container can be shipped from China to America. That same container can then be onforwarded to Brazil, then Argentina and then finally shipped to South Africa. During its life, that single container could potentially travel to every country on the planet. Global logistics is one of the few things that truly unites the world as logistics allows global society to raises its social standards.
One of the world largest container shipping line is Maersk. They have over 700 container ships, 31,000 staff and over 4.5million containers, which are spread out across the world delivering cargo to millions of destinations.
Another major container shipping line is Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and they compete with companies like Maersk for there share of global trade operations. One of MSC latest ships is the MSC Gulsun, which has recently entered operational service. The MSC Gulsun is currently the world largest container ship and it was built by Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea for MSC. The ship has a maximum load capacity of 224,986 tonnes and is capable of carrying 23,756 TEUs (20ft equivalents units). The MSC Gulsun is 399 meters long and 61.5 meters wide, so its not a small ship.
To launch the equivalent mass into low earth orbit using the same launch vehicles that built the International Space Station, you would need over 9,911 successful launches, which isn’t really practical or affordable.
Containers Ships are not the only thing, which are getting larger. Each new generation of rocket far exceeds the payload capacity of earlier generations of space launch systems.
The Falcon 9 Heavy with its expendable booster can potentially lift 45,000kg into low earth orbit, which is twice the capacity of NASA now retired Space Shuttle. NASA new Space Launch System (SLS) is being designed to carry even more than the SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy. The SLS will be able to carry 95,000kg in its Block 1 configuration, in its Block 2 configuration, it will be able to carry 130,000kg into low earth orbit. The SLS rocket will be paired with NASA new Orion Capsule and it will be these systems, which will support the NASA new Lunar Gateway in the next decade. Going back to the Moon has long been a dream of many. The Apollo missions of the late sixties and early seventies only saw 12 men walk on the surface of the moon, then these mission just stopped for a number of reasons including political, the human race are natural explorers, so we have to keep pushing the limits of technology and the human imagination.
In science fiction, writers have envisaged huge space craft that have the ability to voyage between the stars in the same way as ships like the MSC Gulsan sails the world oceans. The Battlestar Galactica, is one of these ships and it’s huge. The Battlestar Galactica has a length of over 1400metres, which is three and half time longer, than the MSC Gulsan.
Global Logistics is going to need a lot of new technologies, if the human race is to build ships like the Battlestar Galactica and explore the heavens. These new technologies could include anti-gravity systems, which could negate the effects of the earth gravity and allow logistics systems to carry thousands of tonnes into low earth orbit in each launch, instead of just fifty tonnes, which is still almost double that of NASA now retired Space Shuttle which built the International Space Station.
Author:- Mark Johnstone “Consultant, Geek and Writer”.
Science Fiction Links. Writers Digest Battlestar Galactica, The Expanse, Star Trek Discovery
Space Links. NASA, ISS, SLS, Orion, Heavy Lift Vehicles, SpaceX,
Space Links. Orbital Sciences Corporation ESA, SpaceX Mars
Aircraft Links. Boeing, Antonov, Airbus,
Container Ships Links Maersk, MSC, MSC Gulsan, Unit Load Devices,
New Technology Links. Artificial Intelligence, Anti-Gravity,
Related Media New York Time Space Washington Post Space,
Government Links USA National Space Council
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