Shackleton Energy Company
|Headquarters||Del Valle, Texas, USA|
|Key people||Bill Stone (Chairman)
Dale Tietz (CEO)
Jim Keravala (COO)
|Services||Lunar spaceflight and mineral extraction|
Shackleton Energy Company was formed in 2007 in Del Valle, Texas with the explicit goal to prepare the equipment and technologies necessary for mining the Moon. Shackleton Energy was a subsidiary of Piedra-Sombra Corporation until March 2011, when it was incorporated as an independent C-corporation in the State of Texas.
Shackleton intends to undertake lunar prospecting. If significant reserves of ice are located, they plan to establish a network of "refueling service stations" in low Earth orbit (LEO) and on the Moon to process and provide fuel and consumables for commercial and government customers.
If the prospecting is successful—ice deposits are located, the appropriate legal regime is in place to support commercial development, and the ice can be extracted—Shackleton proposes to establish a fuel-processing operation on the lunar surface and in propellant depots in LEO. Equipment would melt the ice and purify the water, "electrolyze the water into gaseous hydrogen and oxygen, and then condense the gases into liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and also process them into hydrogen peroxide, all of which could be used as rocket fuels. Should other volatiles like ammonia or methane be discovered, they, too, would be processed into fuel, fertilizer, and other useful products."
The economics that would make the enterprise potentially profitable are based on the relatively low costs of getting the fuels and other consumables from the moon into low Earth orbit. "Because of the peculiarities of celestial mechanics, such a haul requires just 1/14th to 1/20th of the fuel it takes to bring material up from Earth."
The human element of the project includes the development of an "industrial astronaut corps" that would select for individuals who have many of the characteristics of previous explorers—such as Ernest Shackleton, Edmund Hillary and Lewis and Clark—"bold vision, determination, independence, leadership, execution and capability necessary to undertake a non-terrestrial industrial venture. Those human qualities are very necessary" to what Shackleton intends to do.
Shackleton plans call for a four phase project, notionally through 2020:
- Systems planning and enterprise planning, 2012–2014
- Robotic precursor missions, lasting two to three years, are planned to "identify and characterize the nature, composition and locations of the optimum ice concentrations at the north and south pole craters". Surface operations and surface assays with Shackleton equipment will complement the parallel NASA and international missions. Projected to begin as early as 2014.
- Establish prototyping and engineering infrastructure in LEO to test the interchangeable modules that are intended for later use for production. planned to concurrently start in 2014.
- Establish production-scale equipment and transport vehicles, both in LEO and on the surface of the Moon. Once the lunar polar base has been confirmed and the equipment is landed, human teams will follow to monitor and operate the facility for the extraction of water ice.
This entire notional phasing leading to a nominal 2020 delivery is dependent on the successful initial raise of infrastructure capital in early 2013. The programmatic phasing requires approximately seven years after funding until delivery of propellant to customers. Shackleton is working to develop "a realistic and achievable schedule" including "assurance of a propellant delivery capability" to their space transport customers on a firm schedule, committed to some years in advance (c. 2015) so that the putative customers may make similarly large capital investments.
Although the requisite legal regime to enable the ice mining technology is not fully in place, major world space agencies, including NASA, have put in place a coordination framework for encouraging the type of commercial activity proposed by Shackleton.
Entrepreneurs are thinking about further commercial expansion into space. As space exploration extends to the Moon and Mars, there will be potential opportunities for companies to provide ... space-based resource extraction and processing capabilities. For example, Moon rocks are rich in oxygen that might be exploited to provide life support systems for lunar operations. Liquid oxygen can also be used as a rocket propellant—and it might be more economical to manufacture it in space than to lift it off the Earth. Mining the Moon might also yield titanium—a strong but light metal favoured for high-end aerospace applications. Finally, the Moon’s known abundance of Helium-3 could prove valuable if fusion reactors ever become feasible in the future.
For business to be confident about investing, it needs the certainty of a long-term commitment to space exploration, the opportunity to introduce its ideas into government thinking, and the rule of law. This means common understanding on such difficult issues as property rights and technology transfer. The Coordination Mechanism foreseen as part of the Global Exploration Strategy will provide a forum to discuss these important issues.
Shackleton began a US$1.2 million seed stage funding round in November 2011, working with crowd funding partner RocketHub. At the end of the fund raising period, a total of $5,517 was raised out of the hoped-for $1.2 million (0.46%). Bill Stone estimates that $25 billion of total investments will be needed for infrastructure establishment with first revenues being generated within three years of program start.
- Asteroid mining
- Geology of the Moon
- Inspiration Mars Foundation
- Lunar water
- Moon Express
- Planetary Resources
- Private spaceflight
- Propellant depot
- Space colonization
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- "Stone Aerospace Advocates Commercial Mining of the Moon". Stone Aerospace. 2007-01-15. Retrieved 2012-03-07. "Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) [is] a wholly owned subsidiary of Piedra-Sombra Corporation"
- Window on State Government. Certification of Account Status. Retrieved: 7 March 2012.
- Mining the Moon: How the extraction of lunar hydrogen or ice could fuel humanity's expansion into space, IEEE Spectrum, June 2009, accessed 2011-01-05.
- Shackleton Energy's cislunar economic development plans David Livingston interview with James Keravala, The Space Show, 14 December 2012, at 1:22:35–1:23:50, accessed 2013-01-03.
- Shackleton Energy's cislunar economic development plans David Livingston interview with James Keravala, The Space Show, 14 December 2012, at 55:25–57:40, accessed 2012-12-22.
- Shackleton Energy's cislunar economic development plans David Livingston interview with James Keravala, The Space Show, 14 December 2012, at 1:12:30–1:14:30 & 1:25:05–1:30:10, accessed 2013-01-03.
- Moon, Mars, Asteroids: Where to Go First for Resources? SSI-TV video archive, recorded on November 9, 2010, 74:37, panel discussion held during the Space Studies Institute's Space Manufacturing 14 conference in California. "Moderated by tech investor Esther Dyson, the discussion included: Prof. Michael A'Hearn, University of Maryland, Dept. of Astronomy, Prof. Greg Baiden, Penguin Automated Systems, Mark Sonter, Asteroid Enterprises Pty Ltd, Prof. John S. Lewis, Space Studies Institute, Dr. Paul Spudis, Lunar and Planetary Institute, and Jeff Greason, XCOR Aerospace."
- The Global Exploration Strategy: the Framework for Coordination, ASI (Italy), BNSC (United Kingdom), CNES (France), CNSA (China), CSA (Canada), CSIRO (Australia), DLR (Germany), ESA (European Space Agency), ISRO (India), JAXA (Japan), KARI (Republic of Korea), NASA (United States of America), NSAU (Ukraine), Roscosmos (Russia), section 3 "Theme 3: Economic Expansion", pp. 10–12, May 2007, accessed 2011-01-05.
- Messier, Doug (2011-11-09). "Shackleton Energy Company Launches Plan for First Lunar Mining Operation". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2011-11-10.
- "Humans to Return to the Moon by 2019", Shackleton Energy Company, 09 November 2011. Retrieved on 10 November 2011.
- "Project: Shackleton Energy Company Propellant Depots, Rockethub, Retrieved on 16 January 2012.
- "Mining the Moon's Water: Q & A with Shackleton Energy's Bill Stone". space.com. 13 January 2011.