Logistics program tests interplanetary supply chain

日期:2019-03-01 09:04:10 作者:毋醣吮 阅读:

By Tom Simonite Software that works out how to schedule the delivery of supplies to several distant space bases has been developed by US researchers. It is currently being used to figure out the delivery challenges involved in building long-term bases on the Moon and Mars. NASA aims to have a crewed Moon base ready by 2020, with crewed missions to Mars to follow (see Bush reveals plan for Moon and Mars). But such ambitious ideas will require drastic changes to the ways missions are planned, say researchers at MIT’s Space Logistics Project. A video shows the system running through the Apollo XI mission – the first to visit the Moon. The Apollo astronauts had to pack everything needed for a mission while planning deliveries to the ISS is relatively simple. However, ensuring that a network of bases on Earth, the Moon and Mars do not miss a shipment of food, fuel or equipment will be far more complex, says astronautics engineer Olivier de Weck. With colleague David Simchi-Levi, de Weck created a software package called SpaceNet to help. It works in a similar way to systems used by international courier firms to work out how to co-ordinate deliveries. SpaceNet bases calculations on the needs of different bases, the capabilities of different vehicles, and changes in the relative position of bases and the gravitational pull of planets. Its creators say SpaceNet can juggle supplies to bases on the surface of planets, in orbit around them, and at Lagrange points – where the gravity between different bodies cancels out. “Given the budgetary constraints, I think making the future manned missions happen will depend on this kind of planning,” de Weck told New Scientist. The software is already equipped with the specifications of current craft, such as the space shuttle and Soyuz, as well as planned vehicles like NASA’s Orion, which will be designed to take astronauts to the Moon (see NASA to boldly go… with Lockheed Martin). De Weck has been testing different scenarios. For example, he worked out how to make the deliveries needed to establish NASA’s potential lunar outpost near the Shackleton Crater on the Moon’s southern pole. He also calculated how to sustain this base over a long period. This kind of planning will be crucial to the success of such missions, he says, adding that it should “improve the quality of scientific results from the missions while minimising risks and transportation costs”. “When I saw this I just thought ‘yeah, of course’,” says Martin Barstow, a space expert at the University of Leicester, UK. “Until now, planning has been largely ad-hoc, but it can’t stay that way. If a manned colony doesn’t get a shipment it could just disappear.” Logistics will probably play an important part in NASA’s ambitious plans, he adds: “Everyone thinks about the Moon base in terms of the scientific challenges,