Thomas L. McKendree

A Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal Presented to the
Guidance Committee:

Dr. Stan Settles, Chair
Dr. Elliot Axelband
Dr. George Bekey
Dr. George Friedman
Dr. Randolph Hall
Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis
Dr. Ralph Merkle

Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering


Systems architecting requires balancing characteristics and elements so they fit together in appropriate compromises to create good systems. One major domain for systems architecting is space operations. Molecular nanotechnology promises dramatic increases in component performance and functional opportunities, possibly leading to dramatically changed system balances and overall performances. The research proposed here will examine the system benefits of molecular nanotechnology for a wide range of previously defined system architectures for space operations, and for their contexts of operational concepts and grand strategies. It will then synthesize grand strategies, operational concepts and system architectures to exploit the particular strengths molecular nanotechnology offers, including at least one fully novel system architecture, and characterize their performance. This process will be carefully documented, creating an analyzable demonstration of assessing the crucial relationship between emerging technology and unprecedented systems.

September 1995


To Martha Bonita Hittle McKendree (January 22, 1914 -- September 13, 1995). The Depression cheated you out of college, but your son and grandson made you proud.

Table of Contents

    1.0 Introduction
    2.0 Background
      2.1 Overall Systems Architecture
      2.2 Overall System Architectures for Space Operations
        2.2.1 Mission Areas for Space Operations
        2.2.2 Major Space System Functions
        2.2.3 Support Architectures
        2.2.4 Science Architectures
        2.2.5 Exploration Architectures
        2.2.6 Exploitation Architectures
        2.2.7 Enhance Quality of Life on Earth
        2.2.8 Colonization
        2.2.9 Planetary Defense
        2.2.10 International Competition
        2.2.11 Main Journals in the Field
      2.3 Molecular Nanotechnology
      2.4 Systems Architectures for Space Operations Which Exploit Molecular Nanotechnology
    3.0 Research Objectives
      3.1 Address Major Claims in the Literature About MNT and Space Operations
      3.2 Performance on Space Operations Functions
      3.3 Generate a Novel Space Systems Architecture
    4.0 Planned Research Activities
      4.1 Justification for Chosen Method
        4.1.1 Justification for Theoretical Applied Science
        4.1.2 Justification for Task
 The Larger Process
 Comparison with Other Task Flow
      4.2 Required Research Skills
      4.3 Research Tasks
        4.3.1 Literature Survey
        4.3.2 Assess Space System Architectures in the Literature, Using the Technical Parameters of MNT
        4.3.3 Assess Concepts For Space Operations in the Literature, Using the Technical Parameters of the MNT-Based Space System
        4.3.4 Assess Grand Strategies For Space Operations in the Literature, Using the Estimated Performance of the MNT-Based Operational Concepts
        4.3.5 Generate and Assess MNT-Based Grand Strategies
        4.3.6 Generate and Assess MNT-Based Concepts For Space Operations
        4.3.7 Generate and Assess MNT-Based Architectures For Space Systems
        4.3.8 Write Dissertation
      4.4 Current Schedule
      4.5 Risks and Mitigation
    5.0 Conclusion

List of Tables

    Table 1. Major Space System Functions support various space mission areas.
    Table 2. Theoretical Applied Science fits among the dichotomies of theoretical versus experimental and pure versus applied research. Derived from [Drexler, 1992a].
    Table 3. Skills needed for the proposed research.

List of Figures

    Figure 1. This proposed research fills the gap between systems architecting for space operations, and molecular nanotechnology.
    Figure 2. The technology, system architecture, operational concept, and grand strategy, must all match.
    Figure 3. A molecular planetary gear.
    Figure 4. If trend's in material processing continue, they lead to atomic precision.
    Figure 5. The research approach provides the necessary integration of system architecture, operational concepts, and grand strategy into consideration of an MNT-based space systems.
    Figure 6. An iterative process for assessing system architectures using MNT, likely to continue for years or decades by many researchers across many research projects. The proposed research embeds into this process.
    Figure 7. The examination of MNT-based space systems architectures, and to a lesser extent, operational concepts, directly supports the research objectives.
    Figure 8. Each major analysis task feeds into a specific section of the dissertation.
    Figure 9. Current schedule for dissertation research.

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1.0 Introduction

Aerospace systems classically take on the order of one decade to go from concept to realization, sometimes longer, and then have fielded fleet lifetimes of a couple of decades or more. This puts the lifetime of new aerospace systems being currently conceived within several estimated windows for the availability of molecular nanotechnology [Taniguchi, 1983], [McKendree, 1993], [Pergamit, 1995], [Merkle, 1995b]. Early examinations of molecular nanotechnology [Drexler, 1986a], [Drexler, 1986b], [Drexler, 1988a], [Drexler, 1992b], [Coppinger and Toth-Fejel, 1995], [McKendree, 1995] however, suggest the possibility of dramatically increased performance for space systems that use this technology.

Thus, a crucial issue when contemplating system architectures for space systems is thinking about incorporating molecular nanotechnology at some point. Very little work, however, has been done in this area. For system architects to consider the issue, they need to be provided with an understanding of the range of space systems and attendant capabilities that molecular nanotechnology could offer.

Once provided this information, aerospace systems engineers then face the classic systems architecting problem of whether or not, and how, to incorporate a technology which promises a dramatic increase in system performance, but which carries substantial schedule, cost, and technical risks. This is particularly difficult for molecular nanotechnology, since dramatic performance increases in supporting technology often require a re-architecting to properly exploit [Rechtin, 1991], [Raymond, 1951].

Indeed, the prospects for significant new architectures for space systems are particularly strong with molecular nanotechnology, as it offers not only higher technical performance on some functions, but as [Drexler, 1992a] points out, several novel functions for technical systems as well.

The focus of this research is to examine architectures for space systems that exploit molecular nanotechnology. It will be successful if it accomplishes the following objectives: 1) Clearly refute, support, or show as currently undecidable by analysis each of the major claims in the literature about systems architectures for space systems that exploit molecular nanotechnology, as listed in 3.1 below; 2) For each major Space System function listed in 2.2.2 below, develop a supported minimum estimate for the maximum performance on that function for some system architecture by using molecular nanotechnology; and, 3) Generate at least one novel system architecture for space operations which is realizable within our understanding of physical law.

Throughout this research proposal, "MNT" will be used interchangeably to mean "molecular nanotechnology."

The research will approach this topic in two major steps, first assessing the capabilities of previously defined system architectures, operational concepts and grand strategies, using the technical performance parameters estimated for molecular nanotechnology, and second, finding, generating and assessing system architectures, operational concepts and grand strategies specifically created to exploit the estimated capabilities of molecular nanotechnology.

"Grand strategy" here means the top-level approach to achieving primary goals, an understanding of why that approach is expected to be effective, and an understanding of why the goals are important and appropriate. For example, the grand strategy for Apollo was setting a spectacular and far off goal in the space arena in which the Soviet Union had been beating the US. The long-term goal removed the focus from the short term "firsts" that the Soviet Union could achieve since it was ahead, and gave the US enough time to surpass the Soviet's in space. This was important because the United States was engaged in a political and ideological struggle with the Soviets, and their highly visible space victories were significant propaganda elements in persuading people and countries more towards the Soviet Union.

Now is a good time for the proposed research. First, MNT has become sufficiently well defined technically [Drexler, 1992a] that it can be analyzed and used in synthesis and analysis, and MNT is also starting to receive recognition, such as the recent RAND manuscript [Nelson and Shipbaugh, 1995]. Second, world context has changed so dramatically that it is time to reassess our grand strategies for space [Friedman, 1995a], and insights on the long-term implications of MNT would support that reassessment . Finally, systems architecting has developed into an understandable mindset [Rechtin, 1991] which could support, and grow from, this research.

It is hoped that this research will also achieve some or all of the following: 1) Generate not just one, but several novel system architectures for space operations realizable within our understanding of physical law; 2) Create an understanding of the range of systems architectures for space operations made feasible with molecular nanotechnology; 3) Understand the competitive capabilities of these systems architectures; 4) Develop a range of concepts for space operations which use combinations of these systems architectures; 5) Understand the competitive capabilities of these operational concepts; 6) Create an understanding of the range of Grand Strategies for space operations, given the development of molecular nanotechnology, including the near and medium term actions implicit in these grand strategies; and, 7) Understand the relative suitability of these different Grand Strategies, given the development of molecular nanotechnology. At a minimum, it is hoped that this research will form a basis from which further research will eventually achieve these larger goals.

It is also desired that this research provide an illustrative example for systems architects and systems engineers of assessing the crucial relationship between emerging technology and unprecedented systems, since new technology which promises to provide a dramatic jump in system effectiveness, but which actually is the primary cause of risk on a new development, remains a troubling area in systems engineering. Toward that end, the actual methodology in progress will be carefully documented for the benefit of future researchers.

The question this research will answer is "what would MNT-based space systems roughly be capable of achieving?"

That question makes this a dissertation in systems architecting, because it requires a systems architect's focus and perspective to grapple with. In order to answer the question, one must answer "what will MNT-based space system architectures look like, and why?" It requires the ability to modify system architectures and create new ones as needed to satisfactorily exploit, at the system level, the benefits of a powerful, sometimes driving, component technology.

This research will illustrate how to grapple at the system level when presented with a potentially very powerful component technology.

This research will also help in better understanding more about the real value of MNT, if any, and help in beginning to recognize where MNT would lead to fundamental redesigns of space systems. Furthermore, if the operational utility of MNT to space, well and conservatively estimated, proves significant, this will stimulate further investigation, effort and investment, leading to more results, building on itself. If MNT does not really offer much increase in space operational capabilities, then the space community and space system architects will be able to safely put MNT to rest.

Figure 1. This proposed research fills the gap between systems architecting for space operations, and molecular nanotechnology.

2.0 Background

This dissertation lies at the intersection of three areas (figure 1). The first area is Systems Architecture, as defined by Professor Rechtin during his work at USC. The second area is a subset of the first, Systems Architectures for Space Operations. The third area is molecular nanotechnology. The background for this research proposal discusses each of these three areas in turn, and concludes with a discussion of what work has already been done in their mutual intersection.

2.1 Overall Systems Architecture

Systems architecting is the structuring of a system so that it will satisfy a purpose. The term is often restricted to the creation and building of unprecedented complex systems [Rechtin, 1994], which is the most difficult case. In current systems architecting thought, the "system" is usually an aerospace product, communications system, computer hardware or software, or a manufacturing system [Rechtin, 1991]. When the system is a building or ship, the related disciplines of civil and naval architecting apply.

In this research proposal, the term "overall systems architecture" is used interchangeably to mean "overall architecture." The concept of an overall architecture was brought into focus by the seminal work [Rechtin, 1991], in which he pulled together and defined the modern concept of systems architecting [McKendree, 1993].

The "overall architecture" is an expansion of the concept of "system architecture." First, the system architecture is the arrangement of the components of a system to achieve its emergent function(s). The overall architecture adds the system's purpose, its functional structure, and how it fits into the environment over the course of its life cycle. As [Rechtin, 1991] observes, the system is embedded in larger systems, which in turn are embedded in larger systems, and many of these larger systems overlap, so an overall architecture is an intrinsically unbounded subject. Setting bounds to what one will consider in a particular case is a crucial part of the early structuring of the problem, which systems architects must do in their work.

The system architect is the agent of the client, responsible for translating the client's wishes into a conceptual design which the builder can build. This is a necessary role, but one which has often lacked formal recognition. Rechtin is a very strong advocate for having the system architect also be responsible for system certification [Rechtin, 1994].

The focus of much systems architecting work is creating the top-level conceptual design of the system. In the earliest stages of a project, this top-level conceptual model for most practical purposes expresses the systems architecture.

Systems architecting is purpose oriented [Rechtin, 1994]. It relies on a technology base for what is feasible. The operational concept describes how the system is to be used and what it is intended to do in the field, and grand strategy defines what this is supposed to achieve and why it is important. These three levels form a coarse-grained example of a hierarchy of purposes. While [Nadler, 1981] and [Nadler and Hibino, 1990] emphasize using a purpose hierarchy to select the appropriate level to focus one's attention, it is also true that to satisfy a purpose, all the levels must ultimately come to be in satisfactory accord.

[Goure, 1994] speaks indirectly of this hierarchy of supporting technology, systems, operational concepts, and grand strategy. Each level must support the level above it, and has as its purpose to satisfy the level above it. At the same time, each level can only ask the level below it to support what that level below can reasonably provide. The technologies support the system architecture, and they must match each other. The architected systems are used, often in combination with other systems, and that use is captured in the operational concept. They must match each other. Finally, the operational use implements a grand strategy, and is usually guided by an explicit grand strategy. These relationships are shown in figure 2 below.

Figure 2. The technology, system architecture, operational concept, and grand strategy, must all match.

During the conception and development of a new system, that system is in a future system state [Nadler, 1981]. One effective means of thinking about the future is scenarios [Schwartz, 1991]. Specific scenarios will include specific system architectures as elements, specific operational concepts as plot or subplots, and a specific grand strategy providing the overriding motivation. It may provide multiple grand strategies for different adversaries. Occasionally, a grand strategy may change in a scenario, that change being a major element in the plot.

The Journal that includes systems architecting in its scope is Systems Engineering: The Journal of the International Council on Systems Engineering. Some relevant subjects are also appropriate for IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics [Rowe, 1965].

There are two different types of experts in systems architecting (although one person can be an expert of both types): 1) experts in studying systems architecture; and, 2) experts in creating systems architectures. In other words, there are experts on the subject, and experts in the practice, the same as the difference between a military historian and a general.

It is easier to identify experts in systems architecting, since often all one need do is select large, complex, unprecedented systems, and then answer "who was the architect?" Examples include G. Bennig and H. Rohrer, system architects for the STM [McKendree, 1989a], W. R. Schindler and J. Kline of Douglas Aircraft Company, system architects for the Delta Rocket [McKendree, 1989d], General Barker, General Morgan and Major General J. A. Sinclair, system architects for Operation Overlord [McKendree, 1989c], and Walt Disney, system architect for Disneyland [McKendree, 1989b].

Experts on systems architecting are harder to determine. Rechtin, however, clearly is one [Rechtin, 1991], [Rechtin, 1994]. Simon [Simon, 1981], Alexander [Alexander, 1964] and Klir [Klir, 1985] are also relevant experts.

2.2 Overall System Architectures for Space Operations

A number of systems for space operations have been deployed, each with its own overall architecture. An even larger number of systems for space operations have been proposed [Mallove, Forward and Paprotny, 1980]. These overall architectures can be categorized by the mission area they support, and by the major space system functions they provide.

Section 2.2.1 lists mission areas for space operations. Section 2.2.2 lists major functions performed by space system architectures. Sections 2.2.3 through 2.2.10 discuss overall system architectures for space operations within the defined categories of mission areas. Finally the main journals in the field are summarized in 2.2.11

2.2.1 Mission Areas for Space Operations

[Friedman, 1995b] identifies seven mission areas for non-military space operations. They are:

  1. Science for the sake of pure knowledge.
  2. Exploration into unknown domains.
  3. Exploitation of material and energy resources back to Earth.
  4. Enhancement of quality of life on Earth.
  5. Human colonization of space.
  6. Planetary defense.
  7. International competition.

Adding an additional mission area of:

0. Provide support to other mission areas

more cleanly addresses the many space functions which are repeatedly used across many mission areas.

2.2.2 Major Space System Functions

Most system architectures for space operation support one or more of the following Major Space System functions: 1) Earth to Earth-orbit transport; 2) Earth orbital transfer; 3) payload return to Earth; 4) signal relay; 5) docking payloads with low-gravity objects; 6) landing payloads on hard, moderate gravity bodies (with and without atmospheres); 7) remote sensing of Earth; 8) astronomical observation; 9) remote sensing of extraterrestrial bodies; 10) life support in a hostile environment; 11) micro-g research; 12) in situ science; 13) extraterrestrial maintenance and repair; 14) extraterrestrial resource recovery; 15) interplanetary transport; 16) intercept of threatening bodies; 17) interstellar transport.

Table 1 (next page) illustrates the relationship between these major space functions and the mission areas. Each mission area has one or more primary functions which represent the realization of the mission area. For example, one set of system architectures which enhance quality of life is communications satellites. Signal relay is the function which implements their purpose. Thus signal relay is checked under Enhance Quality if Life. Most systems for space operations across the mission areas however, also require signal relay as a necessary support function, even though their major functions are something else. Thus signal relay is also checked under Support.

2.2.3 through 2.2.10 below discuss example overall system architectures within the mission areas listed across the top in table 1.

Table 1. Major Space System Functions support various space mission areas.

2.2.3 Support Architectures

These are system architectures which provide a major function in support of space operations, such as the Delta launch rocket, the Ariane launch rocket, the automatic docking mechanism for the Progress vehicles which resupply the Russian Mir space station, the Deep Space Network, the on-orbit repair of the Hubble space telescope, and proposals for interstellar propulsion.

Most support architectures are means of transporting payloads through space. The first such architecture is the rocket. Analyses going at least back to Goddard [Goddard, 1970] show that with a sufficiently energetic fuel, a rocket can expel reaction mass from burning, and the recoil will lift the rocket into space. Furthermore, rockets can be used to change trajectories when already in space. Unfortunately, rockets operate under the burden of carrying their own reaction mass, which must be accelerated along with the rocket and payload before being used. This gives rise to the exponential rocket equation:

(rocket mass + reaction mass used)/(rocket mass) = e[[Delta]]V/(Isp*g0) (1)

"Rocket mass" includes all the accelerated mass (payload, structures, engines, unused reaction mass, etc.) except the "reaction mass used," which is the mass of material expelled to provide acceleration. [[Delta]]V is the total change in velocity. Isp is the specific impulse, a measure of the effectiveness of the engine, often interpreted to mean the number of seconds that one pound of reaction mass can deliver one pound of thrust (in the basic rocket equation above, this is assumed constant). g0 is the acceleration of gravity on earth's surface (9.8 m/s).

Example Isp's include for solid motors 280 - 300 seconds, for Oxygen and RP-1 350 seconds, for liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen 450 seconds, and for ion engines 2000 - 6000 seconds [Sackheim, Wolf and Zafran, 1991], but ion engines have very low thrust compared to their engine mass. For comparison, NERVA, a simple nuclear rocket which forced hydrogen through a nuclear core where it was heated, was tested in the 1960s and provided an Isp of at least 925 seconds at high thrust [Borowski, 1990]. A proposed liquid core nuclear rocket, much more advanced but undemonstrated, would have high thrust and an estimated Isp of 2000 seconds [Ludewig, 1990].

Rocket's for interstellar missions appear to require significantly higher Isp's. A totally different architecture would be to propel a vehicle with a beam fired from a station in the departing location, which does not itself have to be accelerated. This avoids the need to accelerate reaction mass for later use, as a rocket does, and thus approximates an infinite Isp. Both particle beam and laser based versions of this architecture have been examined, and both appear promising [Andrews, 1994].

Another fundamentally different architecture than a rocket is using a cable to transfer momentum. The classic example is a skyhook, a cable in geosynchronous orbit long enough to reach down and attach to the ground. A payload which climbs the skyhook builds potential energy, gains momentum from the Earth's angular momentum, and can go into orbit. Another momentum transfer cable is a rotating skyhook, which can be arranged to have its tip velocity exactly cancel out the orbital speed and the Earth's rotation at its closest approach [Moravec, 1977]. Rotating cables can even be used in free space for trajectory modification [Mackenzie, 1995]. The feasibility of these concepts depends crucially on the ratio of tensile strength to mass density of the proposed cable materials.

2.2.4 Science Architectures

These are space systems which engage in pure science missions, such as astronomy. They are considered here as distinct from exploration architectures, although the boundary between the two mission areas is quite fuzzy, and any precise distinction is somewhat arbitrary.

The Hubble Space Telescope, which engages in visible wavelength astronomy above the Earth's atmosphere, is an example of an architecture in this mission area.

2.2.5 Exploration Architectures

As mentioned above, exploration is considered here as a distinct mission area from science. Exploration systems travel to and examine bodies in space. The JPL series of space probes is a major family of examples. Some, such as Voyager which made close approaches to various planets in the outer solar system, used remote sensing of extraterrestrial bodies as their primary data gathering method. Others, such as the Viking Mars landers, also conducted in situ science. The Galileo spacecraft has an interesting architecture, in which the probe will orbit Jupiter gathering data, but in which there is also a sub-probe that will enter the Jovian atmosphere collecting in situ data.

2.2.6 Exploitation Architectures

These architectures use resources in space for direct benefit on Earth, for example, proposals to mine rare metals out of asteroids, and return those metals to Earth.

A classic architecture in this mission area is Solar Power Satellites (SPS's). They are large satellites in geosynchronous orbit, collecting solar power, producing electricity, and beaming that electricity at microwaves down to a rectenna assembly on Earth. Due to the beam diffraction at the desired wavelength and the geometry, and SPS like this must be roughly 5 GW or larger.

2.2.7 Enhance Quality of Life on Earth

This mission area is to use space for the direct benefits on Earth. Important examples include communications satellites, navigation satellites, weather satellites, and Landsat. This mission area has been particularly successful. Likely reasons include the fact that most operations include transporting up and down only electromagentic waves, which is much less expensive than moving matter, and that with direct beneficiaries on Earth there is a very real customer base. Proposals to manufacture products in space to be sold on Earth would, if successful, also serve this mission area.

2.2.8 Colonization

A classic architecture in this mission area is to build settlements on other planets. No other planet in the solar system offers conditions as suitable for life as Earth, which gives rise to the often suggested refinement in this mission area of terreforming a planet so that it becomes suitable for human habitation [Morgan, 1994], [Nussinov, Lysenko and Patrikeev, 1994], [Coppinger and Toth-Fejel, 1995].

Another classic architecture rejects the idea that an advanced technological civilization necessarily belongs on the surface of a planet. [O'Neill, 1974a] was the first publication introducing O'Neill's particular system architecture of large, inhabited space colonies, with [O'Neill, 1974b] providing an overview of the details. The specific system architecture was an exercise in applied theoretical science. He took as requirements providing "normal gravity, normal day and night cycle, natural sunlight, an earthlike appearance, efficient use of solar power and of materials" [O'Neill, 1974b]. For this he proposed pairs of counter rotating cylinders, roughly 25 km long and 3.2 km in radius, divided lengthwise into three strips of habitable surface between equally sized window assemblies, with strip mirrors reflecting the sun into the colony. 72 much shorter agricultural cylinders would be associated with each cylinder. The assembly of two cylinders could support up to 13 million people in substantial comfort, or 20 million if the territory of the main cylinders were largely turned over to agriculture.

This example design supported a grand strategy where colonies could build more colonies, at a rate of up to once every 6 years, providing rapidly growing land areas, and thus the basis for much of humanity to leave Earth over the next century, bringing industry with them. The purpose of this grand strategy is to solve the following serious problems for humanity "without recourse to repression: bring every human being up to a living standard now enjoyed only by the most fortunate; protecting the biosphere from damage caused by transportation and industrial pollution; finding high quality living space for a world population that is doubling every 35 years; finding clean, practical energy sources preventing overload of Earth's heat balance" [O'Neill, 1974b]. Using resources from the asteroid belt, O'Neill estimated that even if growth rate could not be slowed, it could last for roughly 500 years, until the population had grown by a factor of roughly 20,000, and we would still have all the resources of the outer planets.

Despite this goal, and a process designed to be self-sustaining, it was not clear that Earth would provide the resources to start. [O'Neill, 1974b] had a series of progressively smaller colonies, with the ~13 million population version the largest "model 4," and the smallest a 10,000 inhabitant "Model 1," but this alone had an estimated cost of $30.7 billion, using 1972 dollars and assuming launch costs of no more than $425 per lb. O'Neill thus added a shorter term purpose of direct financial benefit to Earth--the colonies could produce SPS's which would beam power to Earth, and thus pay the costs of establishing the initial colonies [O'Neill, 1975]. Making a series of assumptions, including 10% interest charges, [O'Neill, 1975] estimated positive cash-flow in 15 to 20 years, and total payback in roughly 25 years.

Adding SPS's created O'Neill's basic operational concept. Build a Lunar Manufacturing Facility (LMF) on the Moon and Space Manufacturing Facility (SMF, a small colony with significant fabrication capability) in Earth orbit, for example at L-5. The LMF mines the moon, and launches material using a mass driver (linear accelerator) to the SMF, possibly using an intermediate spacecraft. The LMF and SMF production is used to build additional LMFs and SMFs, bootstrapping production. The SMF produces SPS's, which are then sold, or their power is sold, to utilities on Earth, which receive the power using rectenna farms. Later, the space infrastructure can be used to build larger space colonies. [O'Neill, 1976].

2.2.9 Planetary Defense

This mission area is to prevent unacceptable impacts from bodies in space. The basic mission consists of detecting Near Earth [orbit] Objects (NEOs) such as asteroids or inbound comets, determining if their trajectory would impact Earth, and if threatened, preventing the impact from occurring. Various schemes for trajectory modification, or even pulverization of threatening NEOs, have been proposed.

2.2.10 International Competition

A famous space system architecture in this mission area was Apollo. The grand strategy for Apollo was to set a bold objective and beat the Russians in a "Space Race," thus demonstrating American superiority over communist Russia before the world and overcoming the effect of their "space spectaculars" on the ongoing political struggle between the two nations and alliances. Failure would have been being second to the Russians [Rechtin, 1991].

The Apollo lunar vehicles themselves had as system architects Maxime A. Faget and Robert R. Gilruth [Rechtin, 1991]. An early driving question in the architecture was the mission profile. Obviously, the basic profile had to be go to the Moon, land, and come back, but there were a number of possible variations. Several in Huntsville wanted to dock two rockets in Earth orbit to make a super rocket, land that on the moon, and fly it back, but John Houbolt at Langley identified the mission profile ultimately selected--fly to lunar orbit, drop a lander leaving the return rocket in orbit, use the lander to return to lunar orbit, discard the lander, and return using a much smaller rocket than would have been needed to land on the moon, take off, and return [Gray, 1992].

After Apollo, this entire mission area lost much of its drive, as we had already "beat the Russians." With the end of the cold war, it currently has even less force.

2.2.11 Main Journals in the Field

The proposed research of this dissertation falls well within this area of system architectures for space operations. Several journals specialize in the kind of research in which I propose to engage. The Journal of the British Interplanetary Society describes itself on the copyright page as "one of the world's best known journals devoted solely to the science and technology of space," and notes "Many space projects and developments have been based on ideas which first appeared in its pages."

The Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, published by the AIAA, describes its scope as:

The Journal is devoted to reporting advancements in the science and technology associated with spacecraft and tactical and strategic missile systems including subsystems, applications, missions, environmental interactions, and space sciences. The Journal publishes original archival papers disclosing significant developments in spacecraft and missile configurations, re-entry devices, transatmospheric vehicles, systems and subsystem design and application, mission design and analysis, processing and manufacturing, space operations, interactions with spacecraft and sensors, design of sensors and experiments for space, and applications of space technologies to other fields....

Finally, Acta Astronautica, according to its aims and scope:

Acta Astronautica is the journal of the International Academy of Astronautics. It publishes original contributions in all fields of basic, engineering, life and social space sciences and of space technology related to: (1) the peaceful scientific exploration of space; (2) its exploitation for human welfare and progress; (3) the conception, design, development and operation of the systems, space-borne and Earth-based, needed to accomplish the foregoing two tasks.

2.3 Molecular Nanotechnology

Over time, technology is providing increasingly fine control over matter. We are manufacturing smaller features, as lines get thinner in computer chips, and micro-scale mechanisms are being produced [Mallon, 1992]. At the same time, technologies which already offer molecular precision are providing better control over larger products. Biotechnology produces atomically precise proteins, and progress in designing proteins [Sander et al, 1995], and in designing the sequence to produce proteins [Godzik, 1995], continues. Indeed, designed and published proteins have even gone through subsequent design iterations [Houbrechts et al, 1995]. Molecular modeling software is maturing, becoming interoperable between software packages, more capable, and taking advantage of the increasing cost-effectiveness of computers [Ahren, 1995], [Studt, 1995]. Scanning-Probe manipulation has gone from its most dramatic early demonstration [Eigler and Schweizer, 1990] to increasingly sophisticated atomic surface manipulations [Huang, Uchida and Aono, 1994]. Both trends, increasing precision with general manufacturing and increasing ability with atomically precise technologies, reach their logical conclusion in a general ability to fabricate with atomic precision.

Molecular Nanotechnology is the emerging ability to design and build systems to atomic precision. The idea of manipulating matter to atomic detail was foreseen [Feymann, 1960], and largely forgotten, years before it was unambiguously demonstrated [Eigler and Schweizer, 1990]. The key systems insight came independently in the 1970's to Dr. Drexler [Peterson, 1992], [Regis, 1995] when he realized that a manufacturing architecture based at the lowest level on molecular manipulations would be able to manipulate matter to atomic precision, that "The class of structures that can be synthesized by such methods is clearly very large," and that such production equipment would offer "the production of additional production equipment," making costs low [Drexler, 1981]. The natural thrust of molecular nanotechnology leads in the direction of the development and utilization of such molecular manufacturing systems [Feymann, 1960], [Drexler, 1986], [Drexler, Peterson & Pergamit, 1991], [Drexler, 1995a], [Merkle, 1995a], [Landman, 1995].

This future ability to fabricate at the natural limit of atomic resolution represents the digitization of matter. It will allow the processing of matter in ways analogous to digital processing of information, at the lowest level, using massive numbers of small, high-speed mechanisms. The result would be an ability to process matter with a speed, reliability, complexity, and flexibility similar to that which computers process information. If MNT meets its goals, its significance may even approach the significance of the information technology revolution.

The term "nanotechnology" has been widely used to refer to molecular nanotechnology [Drexler, 1986a], [Hall, 1993]. The term "nanotechnology" has also been widely used, however, to refer generically any technology involving objects with submicron features [Amato, 1991a]. The focus of this research is not on all submicron technology, but on those of wide molecular precision, allowing the manipulation of matter in a manner analogous to the digital manipulation of information. To avoid confusion, the term "molecular nanotechnology," and its abbreviation, MNT, are used here.

Since molecular nanotechnology will allow the fabrication of designed objects to atomic precision, product systems will be able to contain components with atomic-scale features, such as the design of a planetary gear in Figure 3 (next page), where the meshing of individual atoms forms the gear-teeth [Drexler, 1992]. MNT is to contain vast numbers of such simple molecular machines, combined into large, complex systems.

{Warning for HTML version of this file. If "2 x105" looks like "2 x105" to you, then the exponents in the numbers below will not be correctly visible. I am generally using scientific notation. Do not be mislead by incorrectly formatted numbers. - Tom}

If an MNT system can have essentially every atom in its place, then the structural elements can consist of diamond, or even engineered substances such as a composite of diamond fibers in a diamond matrix (which would have greater fracture resistance than diamond). Such structures should have >5 x 1010 N/m2 tensile strength, and a larger compressive strength. They would be ideal for many structural purposes. With a density of 3.51 g/cm3 [Pinneo, 1995], they would also have a strength to weight ratio of >1.4 x 107 N*m/kg, which is 70 times better than aerospace aluminum (7178-T6, with a tensile strength to density of 2 x 105 N*m/kg [Drexler, 1991]).

Figure 3. A molecular planetary gear, (a) end view; (b) side view; (c) exploded view. Figure from [Drexler, 1992a, p. 312] [This design is a collaboration of K.E. Drexler and R. Merkle.].

Based on conservative designs in [Drexler, 1992a], at least some MNT mechanisms should be capable of mechanochemical power conversion at a density of >109 W/m3, while other MNT mechanisms should be capable of electromechanical power conversion at a density of >1015 W/m3. All of these mechanisms should be able to operate at power conversion efficiencies > 99%. Note that heat rejection problems would require volumes operating at these capabilities to be much smaller than one cubic meter, while design constraints may require individual devices to be at least on the order of 100 nm in size.

Also based on a conservative design in [Drexler, 1992a] built around molecular mechanical operations, some MNT-based logic gates should be as small as ~10-8 u3 (~10-26 m3). While meeting this size, it should also be possible for such gates to switch in ~0.1 ns, and dissipate <10-21 J per operation. This should allow ~1010 MIPS per Watt. [Drexler, 1992a] adds an argument for cooling a ~105 Watt, cubic cm system, at an equilibrium temperature of 300 K, which provides the capability for a compact, 1015 MIPS parallel computing system based on these characteristics. Note, since a major design driver was simplifying performance analysis [Drexler, 1988b], better designs with better performance are quite plausible. In particular, a nano-scale quantum electrical logic gate is likely to have a much shorter switching time. Whatever the nanocomputer design, they may become extremely inexpensive on a per-unit basis. If so, then they could be suffused throughout many systems.

The theoretical applied science argument in [Drexler, 1992a] culminated with an examination of molecular manufacturing. This is the process of building general products to atomic precision, using manufacturing systems which themselves can be presumed to have been built to atomic precision. This analysis indicated that a conservative unit operation rate for the lowest level devices would be 106 operations/sec. The system analysis shows that it should be feasible to produce 1 kg of atomically precise general product, within 1 hour, using a molecular manufacturing system that itself masses no more than 1 kg. Note that in particular the molecular manufacturing system could build a copy of itself. This could allow swift amortization of the investment cost for the first molecular manufacturing system. Estimated marginal manufacturing costs for products were dominated by the cost of ordinary purity bulk chemical feed stocks, many of which could be taken directly from the atmosphere if necessary, and estimated in the $0.1/kg - $0.5/kg range.

Note however, that the exemplar architecture for molecular manufacturing used in Drexler, 1992a] was composed of ~3 x 1017 devices, each device potentially as complicated as a cascade of automated part feeders or a roboticized assembly cell. It should thus be clear that systems engineering is crucial to exploit MNT, particularly at the macroscopic level, and that many tremendously difficult problems remain to be solved before all of these performance estimates could be achieved.

Figure 4. If trend's in material processing continue, they lead to atomic precision.

There are several possible development paths for MNT. It is unclear which will succeed first, and thus prediction when MNT might be developed is uncertain. One can nonetheless guess. Current trends are no guarantee of future performance, but they are useful anchors to begin thinking about what might happen. If current trends continue, then indications are that MNT would be developed somewhere between 2010 and 2020 [Merkle, 1995b], as shown for example in figure 4 based on [Taniguchi, 1983]. This trend is not guaranteed, and should be taken as no more than a plausibility argument that MNT might be developed in a timeframe of interest.

Developing MNT may run into significant difficulties, delaying deployment. On the other hand, if developing MNT has significant first mover advantages, then when it gets closer there may be large, well-funded efforts to develop it. This dynamic might significantly shorten the final development period.

[Drexler, 1981] and [Drexler, 1986a] foresaw as a major milestone along one path to develop MNT the successful design and synthesis of de novo proteins. This was first achieved in 1987 [Regan and DeGrado, 1988].

A widely publicized step in the development of MNT was when researchers using a Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) manipulated 35 individual xenon atoms on a nickel surface, spelling out "IBM" [Eigler and Schweizer, 1990]. This was accomplished by cooling the sample to 4deg. K. Similar results were obtained at room temperature in later experiments [Huang, Uchida and Aono, 1994].

Dr. Drexler is the lead theoretician in the area, having published most of the classic, definitive, and influential pieces of research in MNT. After announcing the field in [Drexler, 1981], he publicized it in [Drexler, 1986a], further delimited it, especially with regards to public implications, in [Drexler, Peterson & Pergamit, 1991], and produced the seminal work in [Drexler, 1992a]. This work lays out the entire theoretical foundation, addressing a number of issues, showing how they can be considered, and that none are fatal. Issues addressed in [Drexler, 1992a] include thermal excitation, thermal and quantum positional uncertainty, quantum-mechanical tunneling, bond energies, strengths and stiffnesses, feasible chemical transformations, electric field effects, contact electrification, ionizing radiation damage, photochemical damage, thermomechanical damage, stray reactive molecules, device operational reliabilities, device operational lifetimes, energy dissipation mechanisms, inaccuracies in molecular mechanics models, limited scope of molecular mechanics models, limited scale of accurate quantal calculations, inaccuracy of semiempirical models, and providing adequate safety margins for modeling errors.

The only applications [Drexler, 1992a] discusses in any detail are computation and manufacturing (including intermediate technologies which would lead towards mature molecular manufacturing). A much wider array of applications have been discussed, however, with much less published quantitative justification. [Drexler, 1986a] discussed applications to manufacturing and material wealth, computers, space, health care (including radical procedures for currently general, incurable conditions), and aggressive and military uses. Applications in [Drexler, Peterson & Pergamit, 1991] include health care, environmental remediation (including atmospheric repair and species regeneration), armaments, education, entertainment, manufacturing, wall coverings, clothes, furniture, housing, food, communications, transportation, and safety from accidents and abuse. [Crandall, 1995] will discuss even more possibilities. The usenet group sci.nanotech acts as a giant slush pile, bringing forth even more suggestions, but most suggestions in this newsgroup have not been given critical review.

A prestigious work, winner of the Feymann prize in 1993, is [Musgrove et al, 1992], which analyzed a specific tool-mediated step, the removal of a hydrogen atom from a diamond surface.

The Foresight Institute has held three scientific conferences, specifically on MNT. The proceedings of the first conference evolved into [Crandall and Lewis, 1992]. The proceedings of the third conference resulted in [Krummenacker and Lewis, 1995]. The Fourth Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology will be November 9-11, 1995 in Palo Alto, and the proceedings will come out on the world-wide-web and in the journal Nanotechnology.

2.4 Systems Architectures for Space Operations Which Exploit Molecular Nanotechnology

There already exists a small body of published work which specifically addresses space operations using molecular nanotechnology. This work is still at the very conceptual level, necessarily focusing on the systems architectures of the proposed concepts. Although currently quite small, this body of work is precisely that to which I wish to add with my research. The Journals that specialize in the general area of advanced systems architectures for space operations, such as the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society [Santoli, 1992a], [Santoli, 1994a], are those which would publish research in this body of work; systems architectures for space operations which exploit molecular nanotechnology being a special case of systems architectures for space operations.

As Drexler has a long-standing interest in space exploitation, which predates his thoughts in molecular nanotechnology [Peterson, 1992], [Regis, 1995], and he has been the seminal thinker in founding molecular nanotechnology, the bulk of important work combining these two fields has been his. Drexler's first book on molecular nanotechnology [Drexler, 1986a] devoted a full chapter at a popular level to the subject of space applications, discussing a fully flexible, one atmosphere, Closed Environment Life Support System (CELSS) space suit, asteroidal resources, interstellar, laser-driven lightsails, and the benefits of space resources and lower costs, all in the context of molecular nanotechnology. He also discusses building a rocket engine out of diamond in the book, and by implication entire space systems. The same year he published a paper [Drexler, 1986b] which primarily focuses on molecular nanotechnology, but concludes that this will allow producing "large structures made of nearly flawless materials," and that if these are spacecraft, then costs can be very low. In [Drexler, 1988a] he discusses specific space systems that could be built using molecular nanotechnology, although he does not address whether or not they would be operationally appropriate. The list is quoted below, but none of the numbers were substantiated in the paper:

In [Drexler, 1992b], numerically justified approximations are presented. He discusses a personal SSTO vehicle which delivers a 500 kg payload to LEO with a gross lift-off weight (GLOW) of ~3 tons, and a dry, empty mass of ~60 kg. He also discusses a 20 nm aluminum lightsail, and a solar electric ion engine with a 25,000 Isp.

Finally, [Drexler, 1995] also discusses applying molecular nanotechnology to space, but adds no worked out technical details beyond [Drexler, 1992b]. It does, however, recap a grand strategy for going into space--to utilize the extraterrestrial resources for a expanding technological civilization.

While appearing in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS), [Merkle, 1992] does not discuss space applications beyond making a general analogy in the introduction with proposals for self replicating interstellar probes [Freitas, 1980] and a self replicating lunar manufacturing facility [Freitas and Gilbreath, 1983], but instead focuses on the theory of self-replicating systems and molecular manufacturing as a particular, approaching implementation.

Also in JBIS, [Hansson, 1992] has some provocative ideas for space systems and operations, but it is not yet clear how to analyze them. [Amon, 1994] discusses using MNT for the information subsystem of a manned space vehicle, but the results are largely independent of this space context. Finally a number of articles in the nanotechnology issues of JBIS have focused on MNT instead of its applications in space [Peterson, 1992], [Kritsky and L'vov, 1992], [Santoli, 1992b], [Sheka et al, 1994], [Galushkin, 1994], [Santoli, 1994b], [Santoli, 1994c], or on other issues [Nussinov, Maron and Santoli, 1994], [Luskinovich, 1994].

James Bennet has long been both a member of the pro-space movement [Foresight, 1992], and long been an important official in molecular nanotechnology, serving on the Board of Directors of the Foresight Institute at least since 1998 [Foresight, 1988], serving on the Board of Directors of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing (IMM) since its founding [IMM, 1991], and helped found the Center for Constitutional Issues in Technology [Foresight, 1992]. He is currently working on a popular book on space operations using molecular nanotechnology, but has not yet done much work analyzing actual capabilities [Bennet, 1995]. This research will be fed into James Bennet's effort, when and where appropriate.

[Toth-Fejel, 1984], in its discussion of self test for self-replicating robotic systems such as robotic lunar factories or molecular nanotechnology assemblers, raises an important architectural point. The problem of having confidence in base components is made much simpler by using atoms as the basic building blocks, since different atoms of the same isotope are utterly identical and fully interchangeable, simplifying quality control. It touches space applications of molecular nanotechnology, however, only as an aside.

The much more recent [Coppinger and Toth-Fejel, 1995], while still in progress, focuses exactly on the application of molecular nanotechnology to a mission in space. That mission is terraforming Mars. This is an excellent piece of work, well worked out quantitatively at the top level. Terraforming Mars using molecular nanotechnology is also the detailed focus of [Morgan, 1994] and sketched at in [Nussinov, Lysenko and Patrikeev, 1994].

Finally, [McKendree, 1995] lays out a pair of scenarios for space development that include operations based on molecular nanotechnology. This paper touches on architectures, operational concepts, and grand strategies.

There remains a gigantic hole in this body of work. For example, a search of "nanotechnology and space" on "Current Contents" in the USC periodical database finds nothing. Almost no systems architectures for space operations exploiting molecular nanotechnology have even been sketched at, and of those that have, only two provide even the barest numerical justification. There is a crying need to create a survey of the field, and to create at least representative entries across that survey. Meeting that need is the major focus of this research.

3.0 Research Objectives

The main objectives of this research are: 1) Clearly refute, support, or show as currently undecidable by analysis each of the major claims in the literature about systems architectures for space operations which exploit molecular nanotechnology, as listed below; 2) Create a grounded theory in theoretical applied science of what can be achieved in space operations given molecular nanotechnology. Specifically, for each major Space System function listed in section 2.2 above, develop a supported minimum estimate for the maximum performance of that function by some system architecture which exploits molecular nanotechnology; and, 3) Generate at least one novel system architecture for space operations which is realizable within our understanding of physical law.

These objectives are discussed in more detail in the subsections below.

It is also intended to clearly document the process used in order to establish a clear process of performing assessments of emerging technology to unprecedented systems, and to allow future researchers to study, critique, and follow as desired the steps involved.

3.1 Address Major Claims in the Literature About MNT and Space Operations

Each of the following have been claimed in the literature as feasible, but lack published, substantiating calculations:

For each of these claims the primary objective is to either construct a numerically grounded, applied theoretical science argument for the physical feasibility of that claim, or construct a numerically grounded, applied theoretical science argument demonstrating the unfeasibility of the claim within our understanding of natural law. If neither can be achieved, the contingent objective is to construct a numerically grounded, applied theoretical science argument, with a specific indicated uncertainty which constrains one from making a clear determination.

3.2 Performance on Space Operations Functions

[Drexler, 1992a] presents a grounded theory in theoretical applied science of what can be achieved at the device level with MNT. The key claims of that theory are the estimated minimum performance numbers cited in 2.3 above. A major goal of this research is to create a comparable body of estimated minimum performance numbers for space systems which use MNT. This means, for each of the following functions, this research should find or generate at least one system architecture using MNT which can perform that function, and make a minimum estimate on the performance of that architecture.

  1. Earth to Earth-orbit transport
  2. Earth orbital transfer
  3. Payload return to Earth
  4. Signal relay
  5. Docking payloads with low-gravity objects
  6. Landing payloads on hard, moderate gravity bodies (both with and without atmospheres)
  7. Remote sensing of Earth
  8. Astronomical observation
  9. Remote sensing of extraterrestrial bodies
  10. Life support in a hostile environment
  11. Micro-g research facility
  12. In situ science
  13. Extraterrestrial maintenance and repair
  14. Extraterrestrial resource recovery
  15. Interplanetary transport
  16. Intercept of threatening bodies
  17. Interstellar transport.

3.3 Generate a Novel Space Systems Architecture

The literature is full of actual and proposed system architectures for space operations. In general, almost none exploit MNT. Using the technical capabilities, including the new on-board functions which MNT provides, such as remote self-repair and radical self-reconfiguration, task 7 (figure 5) must include developing at least one new system architecture for space operations.

Note, given an architecture independently developed in this research, the claim of originality requires a second literature search, specifically for a prior mention of an equivalent architecture. Those searches will be part of task 7.

4.0 Planned Research Activities

This research will be an exercise in theoretical applied science [Drexler, 1992a]. It will focus on what classes of applied devices can achieve, consistent with our current understanding of natural law. The main research content will be the analysis of various system architectures and operational concepts, some of which will come from the literature, and some of which will be generated in the course of this research.

Figure 5. The research approach provides the necessary integration of system architecture, operational concepts, and grand strategy into consideration of an MNT-based space systems.

The research is decomposed into 8 tasks. The flow of these tasks leads the research through a complete loop from system architectures through operational concepts to grand strategies, and back. This flow, shown in figure 5, embeds into the larger long-term process shown in figure 6.

Section 4.1 below discusses why theoretical applied science is an appropriate method for the research objectives, and why the tasks have been decomposed and arranged as shown in figure 5. Section 4.2 discusses the skills needed to perform this research. Section 4.3 discusses each of the tasks which make up this research. Section 4.4 discusses the current schedule for completing this research. Finally, section 4.5 discusses various risks inherent in this research, and where and how those risks are being mitigated.

4.1 Justification for Chosen Method

The "method" in this research can be described at two levels. It is an example of theoretical applied science, which studies the characteristics of classes of physically realizable devices. At a more detailed level, the "method" is the research tasks and their flow. The method must be justified at both levels.

4.1.1 Justification for Theoretical Applied Science

The three pillars of this research are system architecture, space operations, and molecular nanotechnology. While many system architects are currently practicing, and many system architectures and space operations exist today, mature MNT unfortunately does not currently exist in a physically testable form. This makes the research theoretical rather than experimental. Space systems are meant to be useful devices expressing intended purposes. This makes the research applied. The combination makes this research an exercise in theoretical applied science.

Table 2. Theoretical Applied Science fits among the dichotomies of theoretical versus experimental and pure versus applied research. Derived from [Drexler, 1992a].


Theoretical  Pure Theoretical Science: What is    Theoretical Applied
Science: What    
               the description of a fundamental     is a minimum estimate for
               physical law obeyed in the           maximum performance a
class of       
               universe?                            useful devices can

Experimental Pure Experimental Science: What      Experimental Applied
               are measured observations of         Design and build a device
               actual events in the physical        accordance with scientific
               universe?                            Does it work?  Is it

Drexler argues that because scientists usually focus on questions that are informed by, or can be addressed with, existing or near-term experimental devices, and engineers usually focus on products that can be profitably produced with current or near-term tools, theoretical applied science is often overlooked [Drexler, 1992a]. One can argue, however, that many concept analyses and feasibility studies are examples of theoretical applied science. Indeed, the early stages of system architecting for novel systems, when concepts are still to be reduced to hardware, is very much in the same spirit. Theoretical applied science results also can be important early data for systems architecting efforts. Some theoretical applied science research differs from early systems architecting activities, such as concept analysis and feasibility studies, in that the latter generally include a requirement that the system be physically realizable with existing or near-term tools.

[Drexler, 1992a] describes how, when the goal in theoretical applied science is to set minimum estimates on the maximum achievable performance of classes of devices, the analysis need not produce a design which is manufacturable with existing or near-term tools, nor enough detail to manufacture a device. This provides some flexibility which can compensate for approximations in the models and the inability to directly experiment. Indeed, with this goal there is no need to attempt to create designs which are likely to actually be built. In the near term, the tools may not exist, and in the far term, better designs are likely to be available.

In the research being proposed, the goal is to understand the intrinsic capabilities of MNT-based space systems. It will do so by developing minimum estimates on the maximum performances from this class of systems, and relating those estimates to performance capabilities in specific operations.

Since including the subject of molecular nanotechnology requires this research to focus on devices which cannot be soon built, this provides the opportunity for the research to also examine classes of space systems which cannot soon be built. Indeed, space system architectures may require MNT to be feasible, while offering significant benefits. This research specifically invites such system architectures.

An important research study that has been successfully carried out using the theoretical applied science examination of minimum estimates on the maximum performance possible from defined classes of devices is [Drexler, 1992a].

4.1.2 Justification for Task

In terms of the actual task flow, the general approach will be to first develop and analyze traditional space concepts, using MNT, and to then develop and analyze concepts to specifically exploit MNT capabilities. The method will be classical concept analysis. The primary source on feasible MNT technical performance will be [Drexler, 1992a].

The task flow is shown in figure 5 above. Tasks 2 - 4 are the synthesis of MNT with previously defined concepts, and a bottom-up analysis of the resulting system architectures, operational concepts and grand strategies. Tasks 5 - 7 conduct top-down definition and synthesis, informed by the earlier tasks. The literature search in task 1 is to provide the basis of previously defined system architectures, operational concepts and grand strategies, along with their performance models, to support tasks 2 - 4. Task 8 compiles the results into a publishable dissertation. This task flow embeds into a larger process, discussed in below. Other possible research task flows are discussed and compared in below. The Larger Process

If MNT achieves its aims, it would be quite revolutionary. Any revolution changes the prevailing context so much that it is hard to assess the implications of that revolution using the prior context. It is difficult to determine the future context, however, without assessing its implications. This circularity requires an iterative approach to study the problem.

Figure 6 on the next page illustrates an iterative approach, integrating the technical capabilities of MNT with their implications for systems, operational concepts, and grand strategy. This approach should evolve answers which converge on an increasingly accurate assessment of MNT's implications for space operations.

The iterative process in figure 6 never ends, it merely keeps refining the answer. This process will likely to go on for years or decades, in the efforts of many researchers, through the development of MNT and space applications. For purposes of this dissertation, the process will be taken through one full loop from space systems through grand strategy, and back. The process will start with previously analyzed system architectures, operational concepts, and grand strategies, to provide a firm grounding. This firm grounding is crucial for confidence, as initial efforts are likely to include such counterintuitive results as a rocket which can deliver 500 kg to low earth orbit, but which has a dry empty mass of only ~60 kg [Drexler, 1992b].

Figure 6. An iterative process for assessing system architectures using MNT, likely to continue for years or decades by many researchers across many research projects. The proposed research embeds into this process.

Once this grounding is established, the process will then return to each of these areas in turn, grand strategies, operational concepts and system architectures, to particularly exploit the apparent strengths and features of MNT. The step is crucial, as MNT offers significant novel functions and significantly improved technical performance, undoubtedly requiring novel architectures to fully exploit. Comparison with Other Task Flow

At least two other approaches seem reasonable. The first would be to directly work through the research objectives one-by-one. The second would be to select a grand strategy, and systems engineer from the top-down a set of operational concepts and system architectures to implement that grand strategy.

A common advantage of both approaches is that being more direct they should be easier and faster. The first approach has an issue with the objective of developing a supported minimum estimate for the maximum performance for major space system function using a system architecture with MNT. When directly looking at each function, there is a risk that a sufficiently wide range of system architectures may not be considered. Furthermore, if the nature of MNT is such that it will provide for a novel major space system function, going through a check-off list will not discover that function.

The first approach also runs into potential difficulties when it gets to the end, if it has not already generated at least one novel system architecture for space operations which is realizable within our understanding of physical law. Since it is narrow in exploration, it may have difficulty moving sufficiently off the beaten path to find a novel architecture.

The second approach makes the process more direct by narrowing the scope down to a single grand strategy, along with its related operational concepts and system architectures. The second approach does maintain, however, a research objective of understanding in some detail the possibilities for systems to implement the grand strategy selected. It is not likely to examine the full range of major space system functions, nor to notice if MNT is better suited to some other grand strategy. It does have a good chance of discovering any novel major space system function that may exist within the purview of the selected grand strategy. There is some danger that the second approach would lack sufficient generality to be truly useful, but since the process of top-down systems engineering should include adequate trade studies to make conclusions across ranges of possible systems, the results should be quite general within the context of the selected grand strategy.

The selected approach has the difficulty that it is larger in scope. It will provide analysis of a wider array of system concepts using MNT. The process has more scope to understand what sorts of operational concepts and grand strategies are more preferred in the context of MNT, and to seek system architectures which better harness MNT's technical capabilities to system performance. A weakness is that the set of generated concepts is likely to be somewhat idiosyncratic--a different researcher would probably generate a different set.

4.2 Required Research Skills

A number of skills are needed to pursue this proposed research. In most cases the needed skills are already developed. They are summarized in the table below.

Table 3. Skills needed for the proposed research.

Needed Skill                     Tasks         Skill Acquisition Strategy  

Library Research                 1, some 7,    Largely acquired.  Working with
                                 8, maybe 2,   Kwan in the Science and
                                 3, 4          Library.                       

Concept Analysis                 2, 7          Already developed              

Ability to use already defined   2, 3,         Already developed              
mathematical models                                                           

Ability to write executable      2, 3, maybe   Already developed              
computer simulations, given a    4                                            
description of the model                                                      

Mathematical modeling            2,3,6,7       Already developed              
                                 maybe 4, 5                                   

Computer modeling and            6, 7, maybe   Already developed              
simulation                       3, 4, 5                                      

Space system design              7, some 6,    Largely acquired.  Further
                                 maybe 2, 3    through practice               

Operational concept analysis     3, 6          Already developed              

Strategic Analysis               4, 5, some    Already developed (see for
                                 6, maybe 3    [McKendree, 1988])             

Strategic synthesis              5, some 4,    Already developed              
                                 maybe 3, 6                                   

General writing                                Already developed              

Dissertation writing             8             Draw on general writing skills.
                                               other dissertations.  Attend
                                               Graduate School's dissertation
                                               short course                   

4.3 Research Tasks

The tasks of this proposed research are shown in figure 5 and reprinted in figure 7 below. Tasks 2, 3, 6 and 7 directly support the research objectives. Task 1 is needed to support task 2 through 4, and tasks 4 and 5 are necessary to bring a broad perspective to tasks 6 and 7. Task 8 is needed to publish the results and conclude this research.

Figure 7. The examination of MNT-based space systems architectures, and to a lesser extent, operational concepts, directly supports the research objectives.

These tasks are described in more detail below. As part of the task descriptions, two examples are carried through the sequence of steps, orbital skyhooks and self-replicating lunar mining/factory complexes (SRS's). The literature survey is the first step, and thus has the most detailed description.

4.3.1 Literature Survey

The first purpose of the literature survey is to find information on a wide range of system architectures for space operations, along with the models or formulas necessary to evaluate these architectures when using different technical parameters. Major sources, and many specific subjects, have been identified.

Likely sources are the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Acta Astronautica, the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, AIAA Papers, and the proceedings of the Biannual Space Manufacturing Conferences held by the Space Studies Institute.

For Earth to Earth-orbit transport architectures, specific items to look for are stacked multiple stage disposable rockets, the semi-reusable 1 1/2 stage shuttle, reusable single-stage to orbit (SSTO) concepts, and skyhooks (aka "beanstalks," aka "orbital towers"). For skyhooks, [Pearson, J, 1975] "The Orbital Tower: A Spacecraft Launcher Using the Earth's Rotational Energy," Acta Astronautica, September-October 1975, is the foundational citation. The first Western publication of this idea was [Isaacs, J.D., H. Bradner, G.E. Backus and A.C. Vine, 1966] "Satellite Elongation into a True 'Sky-Hook,'" Science, 11 February 1966. This research has a copy of [Moravec, 1977] "A Non-Synchronous Orbital Skyhook," which discusses a different architecture for very long rotating cables in space, which are not fixed to the ground.

Specific architectures to look at for Earth orbital transfer include solid booster rockets, refuelable "orbital tugs," and Rotating tethers (aka "bootlaces" [Mackenzie, 1995]).

Specific architectures to consider for payload return to Earth include simple re-entry capsules like the Apollo Command module, aeromaneuverable reentry devices such as the Space Shuttle, aerobrakes, vertical burn landers such as the Delta Clipper, parachutes, and skyhooks. In looking for landing payloads on hard, moderate gravity bodies (with and without atmospheres), the specific architectures for payload return to Earth are candidates.

Geosynchronous communications satellites, LEO communications constellations and interstellar radio beacons and radio telescopes are at least three signal relay architectures to look for in the literature.

For docking payloads with low-gravity objects, specific architectures to look for include maneuvering retrorockets, cable hookup concepts, and the non-docking architecture of close co-orbiting.

In looking for remote sensing of Earth, declassified information on intelligence satellites, and information on remote sensing satellites, like LandSat, are specific subjects to look for in this literature survey.

Specific architectures for astronomical observation include Earth-orbiting telescopes like Hubble, and proposals such as for a far-side lunar astronomical observatory. They include not only systems intended to look deep into the universe, but telescopes searching for orbital bodies within the solar system.

In looking for specific architectures for remote sensing of extraterrestrial bodies, deep space science probes such as those produced at JPL are the classic examples.

In looking for life support in a hostile environment, previous manned missions provide one architecture. The Space Station offers a refinement of that architecture. Fully closed environmental life support systems built around creating a biosphere offers another specific architecture. Finally, proposals to use MNT to terraform other planets are an extreme life support architecture in the literature.

Micro-g research facility architectures to look for include manned LEO stations (such as Mir and Skylab), and unmanned free-floaters.

System architectures for in situ science are likely to be tied to specific mission location concepts. Places to look include specific proposals for Lunar and Mars bases, automated concepts such as the Galileo atmosphere probe and planetary landers, and even rendezvous transponders proposed for rapid orbit determination.

System architectures for extraterrestrial resource recovery are also likely to be tied to specific resource locations, and to specific resources. Examples include Lunar mines, Asteroid mines (with metallic asteroid mining and carbonaceous asteroid mining likely to be very different), Lunar He3 mines, and Solar Power Satellites. An area in which a pre-existing architecture needs to be examined is bootstrapping (including self-replicating) systems for utilizing extraterrestrial resources. [Freitas and Gilbreath, 1983] discusses self-replicating systems on the Moon and appears to be the major work in this area.

System architectures for interplanetary transport and trajectory modification primarily vary on the propulsion system. Specific examples to look for include chemical rockets, Solar Sails, nuclear-powered ion drives, solar-powered ion drives, unsymmetric concentrated solar illumination, and momentum transfer via long tethers.

Architectures for intercepting threatening bodies are addressed in works which examine planetary defense more broadly. Hazards due to Comets and Asteroids, edited by Tom Gehrels, University of Arizona Press, 1995, appears to be the definitive work on the subject, and is a major target of the literature survey. Another source is The Threat of Large Earth-Orbit Crossing Asteroids, Hearing before the Committee on Science, Space and Technology; US House of Representatives, March 24, 1993, available from the Government Printing Office.

The Orion concept, the Bussard Ramjet, lean Anti-hydrogen+hydrogen plasma rockets, laser-powered light-sail (with "Forward" brake), and Magsails are all specific architectures for interstellar transport to look for in the literature survey.

In the literature survey, I will also want to search for any concepts specifically thought to have applicability to intergalactic transport. This might include any of the interstellar architectures.

Another major purpose of the literature survey is to locate existing and proposed operational concepts for space operations. Examples clearly include commercial communications satellites, the Apollo program, suggestions for a space hotel, the "Mars Direct" proposal for missions to Mars, Gerard K. O'Neill's proposal [O'Neill, G.K., 1976] for a "system of systems" including lunar mine and factory, High Earth Orbit Colonies and factories, and Solar Power Satellites, NEO detection and intercept (before Earth impact), and NEO exploitation missions.

A third purpose of the literature survey is to locate existing and proposed grand strategies for space operations. Two examples to specifically look up include the vision of the Planetary Society, which appears to be to study space for its scientific aspects, the vision of the old L-5 Society and current Space Frontier Foundation that space should be a place for free settlers in the spirit of the American West. A related grand strategy is to develop planetary defense against Earth crossing bodies, and grow that capability into NEO exploitation and ultimately full utilization of the asteroid belt. Also, the International Space University's Summer 1995 Session had a project looking at suggested space plans for 25 years, Vision 2020. The literature search should get this document if it becomes available in time.

Another important subtask will be to monitor the literature to make sure this research has the most current estimates of MNT performance.

A related target is to locate currently unidentified concepts for MNT-based space systems, operations, or grand strategies. While everything by Drexler and McKendree are located, sci.nanotech represents a large "slush pile" of possible concepts. It is archived at on the internet.

There will also need to be some research in the literature to look up standard data on the space environment. Issues include the radiation background, both ambient and exceptional, and the distribution of elements on heavenly bodies.

The reference list for this research proposal provides a starting point for the literature survey. There is a comparable set of citations already identified for this research which are not cited in this proposal, and thus not shown in the reference list. They are primarily papers on various space system architectures defined without MNT, which remain to be read.

4.3.2 Assess Space System Architectures in the Literature, Using the Technical Parameters of MNT

For each of the major space system functions (see 2.2), the performance of representative system architectures for space operations on those functions will be assessed. The approach will be to rerun the models of those systems found in the literature survey, but using the technical performance parameters of MNT (see 2.3). This will provide a broad spectrum of possible MNT-based systems and their respective performances, to be used in the next task. It will also provide a sense of what sorts of space systems particularly benefit from MNT, and hopefully some intuition to support steps 5 though 7.

This task will rely on pre-existing performance models, and some models will not be in the literature. Furthermore, the various performance models make different assumptions, and for some models the MNT technical performance parameters will be outside the range where the assumptions made for the model are valid, even after making minor modifications to the models. This research will preferentially select system architectures in the literature for which performance models are available which can properly use MNT parameters. To indicate the degree of selection bias this approach may have introduced, the research will note the fraction of system architectures not selected due to lack of a convenient performance model, out of the total number of system architectures looked at in the literature survey.

The assessment for skyhooks would be to use the best possible strength-to-density material ratio from MNT in the equations in [Pearson, 1975] and [Moravec, 1977], and compare that to the performance they estimated achieving.

For example, [Moravec, 1977] analyzed the rotating skyhook system architecture. One conclusion was that a orbital rotating skyhook with a length equal to 1/3 the radius of Earth is a good architecture, because it is near the minimum mass, and can be arranged to make its closest approach repeatedly at six stable locations on Earth. That paper derived an for the taper ratio, the ratio between the largest area and the smallest area of the cable, assuming a circular orbit and a tip speed that just cancels out the orbital velocity and Earth's rotation when it makes its closest approach.

Assuming graphite crystals, [Moravec, 1977] derived a taper ratio for a 1/3 Earth radius skyhook of 10.05. Using the same equation, a density of 3.51 g/cm3 and the tensile strength of 5 x 1010 N/m2 from section 2.2 above for the cable, yields a 5.5 taper ratio for an MNT-based 1/3 Earth radius skyhook.

[Freitas and Gilbreath, 1983] provides a moderately well-defined logical architecture for a lunar SRS. This research will go though this architecture, looking for parts which could be implemented using MNT, and asses the overall system performance assuming those components use MNT. Equations for overall system performance are not defined in [Freitas and Gilbreath, 1983] down to subsystem parameters, and would have to be derived.

For this particular case, there may be a somewhat difficult architecture issue. On the one hand, most current estimates for improved performance of MNT assume carbon-rich devices. On the other hand, the lunar maria is only 104 parts per million carbon [Freitas and Gilbreath, 1983]. One can forgo most beneficial MNT devices, or one is forced to an overall SRS that must extract and process noticeable amounts of carbon from a very thin lunar environment. This would require a trade study to balance. The most useful applications in this architecture for MNT may be in producing low-mass fraction components such as computer chips, sensors and ball-bearings which otherwise might have to be imported from Earth.

It is hoped that one result of this task will be to provide a general feel for what classes of space systems and purposes MNT is particularly well suited for.

As an example of something cited in the literature, for which published quantitative justification remains, is the "Thousand-kilometer diameter O'Neill-style space settlements" from [Drexler, 1988]. This requires merely showing calculations based on the basic equations for O'Neill-style space settlements, using the estimated technical performance parameters of MNT. It is not clear that this would have great utility

As a general rule, architectures assessed in this step are anticipated to show increased performance when using the technical performance parameters estimated for MNT, but are not anticipated to be well matched to MNT. Thus, these architectures may fall well short of what space systems designed and balanced to exploit MNT would achieve. Furthermore, many of these architectures may be unbalanced in that they offer some spectacular capability with is of no operational utility. Responding to the former issue is the purpose of task 7, and assessing the latter issue is the purpose of the next task.

4.3.3 Assess Concepts For Space Operations in the Literature, Using the Technical Parameters of the MNT-Based Space System

While the focus of this dissertation is on systems architectures, to have meaning they must be considered in the context of their overall architectures. In particular, the purpose of the system architectures and their operating environment are critical to assessing the importance of their performance. The approach will be to locate or create performance models of the concepts of operation, with quantitative figures of merit, and assess the performance in those models using the system performance parameters calculated in the previous task.

For example, the performance of a rocket system architecture would include the thrust capability and the total [[Delta]]V (capability to change velocity). An operational concept might be to take a payload to Mars. Other concepts of operation may be more complex. For example, orbital telescopes monitor for approaching comets. When detected, a high-speed probe brings a rugged transponder to the comet, allowing range and range-rate determination by radar. The trajectory is determined, and if it is threatening, probes in space using pre-positioned energy stores rendezvous with the comet and deflect it to a safe trajectory.

The [Freitas and Gilbreath, 1983] SRS could be used in the [O'Neill, 1976] operation concept : 1) set up mining and processing on the Moon; 2) set up manufacturing in space supported by space colonies; 3) using resources mined and shipped from the Moon the space manufacturing builds Solar Power Satellites (SPS's) and sells them to Earth, with the intent of earning enough to cover the costs for all the previous steps. The performance of this concept for space operations, using the performance estimated in the task above for the MNT-exploiting SRS, would be calculated in this task.

[Merkle, 1990] observed about self-replication "A significant advantage of this approach for space exploration would be to reduce or eliminate the need to transport mass from Earth--which is relatively expensive," and it is avoiding that cost that drove consideration of the SRS concept. With an MNT-based skyhook, however, transporting mass from the Earth might not be expensive. This points to a second operational concept: 1) Transport vast quantities of equipment and material into space. 2) Build SPS's, and sell the power back to Earth. With the reduced cost of the putting material in space, due to the skyhook, maybe this operation concept becomes superior. This second operational concept would be analyzed using the Earth-launch system that was estimated as most favorable in the previous task.

As a final example, [Friedman, 1995a] suggests "seeds in space," unmanned precursor probes with low mass and high performance to build up operations in space the preparing way for ultimate colonization missions, and also suggests "Oceans of Energy," creating many caches of separated hydrogen and oxygen, available as pre-processed resources and fuel stations. MNT appears ideally suited for the seeds in space operational concept, and may better support the oceans of energy. On the other hand, MNT may provide robust solar sail and momentum transfer systems, reducing the operational need for "oceans of energy," at least for propellant.

This task should provide a sense of what sorts of missions MNT is particularly well suited for, a basis of results to support the next task, and hopefully some intuition which will assist in tasks 5 and 6.

4.3.4 Assess Grand Strategies For Space Operations in the Literature, Using the Estimated Performance of the MNT-Based Operational Concepts

This task consists of qualitative assessments of different grand strategies which have been proposed in the literature, drawing on the results of the previous steps. These strategies are to be identified in task 1. Task 4 would likely include discussion of how and why particular grand strategies should perform well given the support of MNT systems, and comparisons of grand strategies.

Grand strategies can be compared in at least the following two senses. First, are the aims and objectives of one grand strategy better achieved when following another grand strategy? Second, if two grand strategies were each pursued by different capable actors, with whatever interference that implied, how well would the grand strategies achieve their respective aims and objectives? Quantitative measures of effectiveness (MOEs) which are general across grand strategies are not expected, but MOEs within grand strategies are plausible, and operational concepts in support of grand strategies are expected to have well defined MOEs.

Every grand strategy for operations in space involves some amount of launching material from earth, and thus the estimated capabilities of the skyhook may impact any grand strategy. If the skyhook makes affordable launching tremendous amounts of material into orbit, that is likely to favor the grand strategies which make more use of Earth-launching vast supplies.

The lunar SRS only matters for those grand strategies with substantial processing of lunar material.

Hopefully this task will provide the guidance for developing any major grand strategies well suited to MNT that are not in the literature. This thought about grand strategies, in conjunction with task 5, is needed to support task 6.

4.3.5 Generate and Assess MNT-Based Grand Strategies

The three prior tasks all begin with ideas that invented and developed without any thought towards MNT. This and the next two tasks will use ideas generated specifically to include MNT.

This task will be to generate grand strategies specifically inspired by the estimated capabilities of MNT space systems, and assess those strategies in the same manner as in the previous task. These new grand strategies, if any, are likely to be inspired by the grand strategies, and their strengths or deficiencies, from the previous task. The purpose of this and the previous task are to provide context for the operational concepts developed in the next step.

Since quantitative figures of merit between grand strategies are not expected, tasks 4 and 5 may yield a subset of multiple conflicting grand strategies where none is clearly superior. If so, then an attempt will be made to design operational concepts and system architectures in the next two steps so that the performance of those concepts and architectures will help indicate which of these grand strategies is superior.

If the skyhook offered a tremendous increase in capabilities, that might suggest developing a grand strategy centered around deploying and using the skyhook. Similarly, a truly tremendous result from the analysis of the lunar SRS might suggest a novel grand strategy (although the basic grand strategies built around lunar exploitation seem to have already been identified). More generally, the earlier tasks, including the assessment of the lunar SRS and skyhooks, may provide a sense of what MNT is particularly well suited for, which could suggest a novel grand strategy playing to those strengths.

In the course of the previous tasks, ideas may come up for MNT-based grand strategies. If so, those ideas will be captured when they occur, and in this sense, this task will begin at the beginning of the research. Also, the assessments in this task may depend on the performance of operational concepts and system architectures to be developed in the next two tasks. In those cases, final conclusions will remain open until the subsequent performance calculations are performed, and in that sense, task 5 will not be completed until after tasks 6 and 7.

4.3.6 Generate and Assess MNT-Based Concepts For Space Operations

This task consists of locating and generating operational scenarios inspired by the estimated capabilities of MNT and the results of the prior tasks, and analyzing the top-level requirements necessary for systems to carry out those operational scenarios. This will provide purpose and context for system architectures developed in task 7 below. Some operational concepts will be assembled from the MNT-based systems derived in task 2. Others may require new MNT-based system architectures. Those architectures will be assumed in this task, and then developed or rejected in task 7. Performance models will be developed for the operational concepts, with quantitative figures of merit.

For constant mass, smaller satellites allow more satellites per constellation. MNT might allow very small satellites, and thus huge constellations. Just because the constellation can be huge does not mean that small satellites is the correct architecture for a system.

Consider for example a constellation of sun-orbiting satellites with large on-board telescopes searching for new comets entering the solar system, in order to provide early detection and warning. Assume a constant constellation mass, and that l is a characteristic length on individual satellites. The volume of space to be surveilled is constant. Assuming constant thickness telescopes (balloon Cassigrains) gives satellite masses that scale approximately as l2. The telescope diameters will scale as l. Detection range (for constant brightness comet) scales as l. The volume surveilled per satellite (for a constant field of view) scales as (Detection range)3, so it scales as l3. Therefore, for constant constellation mass, volume survielled scales as l3/l2. or l3/2. Thus, larger characteristic length (l) is better, and a smaller number of large satellites is better than a huge number of tiny satellites. Note, the constant thickness assumption may be too conservative. The total system mass should not scale any worse, however, than l3. In that case there is no dominant mass penalty (or mass benefit) to scaling.

An operational concept which looks favorable at this very gross level of analysis would deserve a much more detailed examination.

For another example, the standard concept for constructing a skyhook is to establish a geostationary satellite, and then build outward from that until the skyhook is essentially complete, supplying all the mass in orbit. Another approach would be to first build a very thin skyhook. Then, using MNT, the skyhook could draw carbon out of the atmosphere, and use that as the mass to build up the skyhook until it is fully constructed.

Also, a diamondoid structure will degrade at some rate due to background radiation in space. This would be particularly pronounced around the Van Allen radiation belt. Small MNT devices could run up and down the cable, repairing radiation damage at the atomic level. This concept must also include some means to deal with radiation damage to the MNT devices themselves.

For third example, while the lunar SRS is meant to operate on the moon, it is not able to exploit as much of the currently estimated performance of MNT, because those estimates are for carbon-rich devices, and the moon is very carbon poor. An alternate operational concept would be to operate in a carbon rich location. This gives rise to the operational concept of placing some SRS on a carbonaceous asteroid. A new requirement for such a system is being able to do all operations in the microgravity environment of the asteroid docking.

The "Sooners" scenario in [McKendree, 1995] presented another MNT-based concept for space operations: 1) Covertly build and launch a rocket that delivers an SRS on an asteroid {this operation concept assumes the SRS can be made smaller than 1 kg}. 2) The SRS and its progeny take over the resources of the asteroid, turning it into useful equipment, including a desirable place to live. 3) In parallel, covertly build, and then launch a personal vehicle that takes oneself and close others to the asteroid. 4) Dock with and claim the asteroid and all its resources. Assessing this operational concept requires developing and assessing the component system architectures.

In the course of tasks 1 through 5, ideas may come up for MNT-based operational concepts. If so, those ideas will be captured when they occur, and in this sense, task 6 will begin at the beginning of the research. Also, the assessments in this task may depend on the performance of system architectures to be developed in the next task. In those cases, final conclusions will remain open until the subsequent performance calculations are performed, and in this sense, task 6 will not be completed until after task 7.

4.3.7 Generate and Assess MNT-Based Architectures For Space Systems

This task will be to create space system architectures designed specifically to exploit the capabilities of MNT. The actual work will consist primarily of concept synthesis and concept analysis. Many of these concepts may be simple modifications to other system architectures which appear likely to be particularly effective. Any additional literature search to confirm that at least one system architecture is novel is part of this task.

Several papers have been published on "nanosatellites" [Janson, Helvajian and Robinson, 1993], [Janson, 1994]. This term is used, however, to refer to satellites on the order of 10 cm across, with a mass of ~1/3 kg. An open area of exploration for this task is "true" nanosatellites, presumably massing closer to a picogram, and requiring MNT to produce, although, they would require some useful mission to have been found in task 6 to be worth pursuing.

This task could also analyze a skyhook that drew carbon out of the upper atmosphere to grow. How much surface area is available in the atmosphere? What is the carbon uptake rate? How is the mass redistributed along the length of the cable, and at what performance? How fast can the cable grow itself? Note, this idea may prove greatly inferior to simply returning adequate carbon for a full skyhook from extraterrestrial sources to geosynchronous orbit.

This task would also include designing at the top level small MNT devices that move along a skyhook, repairing radiation damage. Their system architecture would include describing in quantitative detail how they repair the radiation. Analysis would have to include how effective the repair effort would be, and how a population of these devices would continue to operate in the face of the radiation environment.

An issue identified in [McKendree, 1995] as critical to MNT and space is the design and performance of an SRS intended to operate on a carbonaceous asteroid. This requires creating the top-level design, perhaps in parallel detail to the [Freitas and Gilbreath, 1983] lunar SRS, of this asteroid SRS. It also requires estimating the basic system parameters, such as initial mass, doubling period, allowable asteroid inhomogenaity, and parts list size.

The earth-to-interplanetary, small ("backyard") launch vehicle was already sized as background work [McKendree, 1995]. These calculations would be revisited in light of the work done in this research, particularly the estimated initial mass of the carbonaceous asteroid SRS.

The personal interplanetary vehicle was also already sized as background work for the SSI paper, and those calculations would also be revisited in light of the work done in this dissertation.

The third research objective, generate at least one novel system architecture for space operations which is realizable within our understanding of physical law, will be achieved in task 7. The key to inventing a novel systems architecture is likely to be in exploiting a novel function which MNT will enable, such as on-board self repair, or radical self reconfiguration under remote or automated control. It might also be possible with MNT to create an architecture with multiple, loosely coupled, self-replacing subsystems, such that the entire system architecture resembles a full, self-contained biosphere. Such a system might adapt across a wide range by changing the population distribution of its various subsystems.

During the previous tasks, ideas may come up for MNT-based space systems. If so, those ideas will be captured when they occur, and in that sense, this task will start with the beginning of the research.

4.3.8 Write Dissertation

The plan is to document my work as much as possible in progress, in order to accurately record the process, and to minimize the effort needed to write the dissertation at the end.

The currently foreseen outline of the dissertation is shown below:

Front Matter

1.	Introduction
2.	Background
2.1	Systems Architecture
2.2	Architectures for Space Operations
2.3	Molecular Nanotechnology
2.4	Systems Architectures for Space Operations Which Exploit Molecular
3.	Documentation of the Process
4.	Grand Strategies for Space Operations
5.	Operational Concepts for Space Operations
6.	System Architectures for Space Operations
6.1	Architectures for Transport from Earth
6.2	Architectures for Earth Orbital Change
6.3	Architectures for Payload Return to Earth
6.4	Architectures for Signal Relay
6.5	Architectures for Docking Payloads with Low Gravity Objects
6.6	Architectures for Landing Payloads on Hard, Moderate Gravity
6.7	Architectures for Remote Sensing of Earth
6.8	Architectures for Astronomical Observation
6.9	Architectures for Remote Sensing of Extraterrestrial Bodies
6.10	Architectures for Life Support in a Hostile Environment
6.11	Architectures for Micro-Gravity Research
6.12	Architectures for In Situ Science
6.13	Architectures for Extraterrestrial Maintenance and Repair
6.14	Architectures for Extraterrestrial Resource Recovery
6.15	Architectures for Interplanetary Transport
6.16	Architectures for Intercept of Threatening Bodies
6.17	Architectures for Interstellar Transport
7.	Conclusions

Within chapter 6, each of the system architectures examined in this research would be presented. This presentation would include mention of its source or if it is original, whether it was originally intended to use molecular nanotechnology, the performance model, and the performance

Figure 8. Each major analysis task feeds into a specific section of the dissertation.

of the architecture with molecular nanotechnology. System architectures which could be classified in more than one section of chapter 6 will be placed where they have the greatest affinity, and cited from the other sections.

Chapters 5 and 4 should have subordinate organization, but the details remains unclear.

>From a readability standpoint, the order of chapters 4, 5 and 6 could be reversed. This change is still being considered.

Section 1.0 & 2.0 of this research proposal serve as preliminary rough drafts for the Introduction and Background chapters of the dissertation, with section 3.0 of this proposal also contributing to the Introduction. Section 4.0, serves as the initial input to the Documentation of the Process chapter of the dissertation. Section 4.3.2 and 4.3.7 include early contributions to the Systems Architectures for Space Operations chapter, and sections 4.3.3 and 4.3.6 include early contributions to the Operational Concepts for Space Operations chapter. The references will carry over into the bibliography.

As figure 8 shows, the various tasks of the research directly feed into particular portions of the dissertation outline. This will aid in maintaining a rough draft of the dissertation in parallel with the research.

An idea to consider is maintaining a draft versions of the dissertation work in progress on the World Wide Web, inviting comment and criticism. Significant comment without telling criticism would provide some additional confidence in the results. This would only be done if there is no danger of creating priority difficulties or other problems with the dissertation itself.

4.4 Current Schedule

The currently planned schedule is shown in figure 9 below. It contains significant overlap in the literature survey and the assessment of pre-defined systems architectures (when using MNT), in order to get preliminary results from the latter task, in support of a paper due October 15 for the Fourth Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology.

Figure 9. Current schedule for dissertation research.

4.5 Risks and Mitigation

This proposed research has some risks, but many of those risks can be mitigated.

The first risk comes from the breadth of the research effort, that it is of excessive scope to complete. The mitigation plan is implicit in the nature of the risk. If the scope is too large, then it logically follows that the scope of this research is larger than necessary, and a restriction of scope would be permissible. There are several dimensions along which restricting the scope is feasible. The best might be to select a single grand strategy, which then becomes the theme of the dissertation and of all the operational concepts and system architectures examined.

Another risk is that some other person will complete largely the same research before I do. This has been addressed somewhat when this topic was selected. I asked Dr. Drexler if he was aware of any research in this area, and he said no [Drexler, 1995c]. The first part of the mitigation plan is to start with a subject that (apparently) no one else is currently looking at. The second part is to try to complete the research as soon as possible, reducing the period of exposure.

The risk of losing my work will be mitigated by keeping remote copies of the files for backup.

For the purposes of this dissertation, MNT is most significantly a theory in applied theoretical science, which states that certain technical performance parameters are achievable, including some novel functions for technical systems (see 2.3). If a fundamental flaw is identified which knocks down the entire edifice, then one major leg of this research is lost, and the research collapses. The probability of this happening is very small. [Drexler, 1992a] generally used conservative assumptions and significant safety factors, and many key conclusions are reinforced with multiple arguments [Drexler, 1981], [Drexler, 1986]. Furthermore, the arguments have been out in the technical community for some time [Drexler, 1981], and no one has identified a fatal flaw [Drexler et. al, 1992]. The basic strategy is to live with this risk.

Further analysis, however, is likely to refine the estimates for technical performance parameters achievable with MNT. There is a risk that some of these values will change over the course of the dissertation. The primary mitigation plan will be to build executable versions of the performance models, thus making recalculation as easy as possible, and to monitor the literature to identify any important changes in MNT performance estimates.

5.0 Conclusion

An examination of the class of space systems architectures using MNT has been proposed as the research for Tom McKendree's Ph.D. dissertation in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at the University of Southern California.

If approved, this research will seek to confirm or refute major unsubstantiated claims in the literature, to establish minimum estimates on the maximum performance of the class of MNT-based systems on a range of major space functions, and to generate at least one novel space system architecture feasible under scientific law.

The approach will be to conduct a bottom-up synthesis of MNT from previously defined space system architectures through grand strategies for space, and to then conduct a top-down definition and analysis of additional grand strategies, operational concepts, and system architectures which appear promising.

Comments on this research plan, suggestions to refine the process, and suggestions for specific system architectures, operational concepts and grand strategies to consider in the research are invited.

It is hoped that the Guidance Committee will approve this research plan, allowing the focus to shift to conducting the research.


The sources listed below were examined, and used in this research proposal.