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Lighter and Tanker Callisto Orbit

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Concept art based on The Resources of the Solar System by Dr. R. C. Parkinson.

Image featured on Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets site,Lighter and Tanker page. Artwork also featured in the Advanced Design section under Tanker.

Image is part of a series on Dr. Parkinson’s 1975 space fleet.

3D model is my interpretation of diagrams on Winchell Chung’s Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets page Lighter and Tanker.

From Atomic Rockets: The Lighter ferries tanks of liquid hydrogen from an electrolyzing station on Callisto into orbit where waits the Tanker. Once the Tanker has a full load of tanks it transports them to LEO. All the ships are drones or robot controlled, there are no humans aboard. The paper makes a good case that shipping hydrogen from Callisto to LEO would eventually be more economically effective than shipping from the surface of Terra to LEO, with the break-even point occurring at 7.8 years. Please note that this study was done in 1975, before the Lunar polar ice was discovered, and probably before the ice of Deimos was suspected.

The Lighter is a chemical hydrogen/oxygen rocket. The Tanker is an Open-Cycle Gas-Core nuclear thermal rocket.

For more detail see my Lighter and Tanker diagram image.

Images of Jupiter and Callisto courtesy NASA/JPL.
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© 2014 - 2021 William-Black
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Rudakzmm's avatar
well made scene.
cw3brett's avatar
Excellent, well-detailed scene over an epic backdrop!

The nav-lights are a nice touch. I presume they serve their purpose during maneuvers in LEO? I've noted Cygnus and Dragon using them during docking procedures at the ISS - Bad news about Cygnus today.
William-Black's avatar
Thanks my friend,

Yes that is the idea. The Lighter and Tanker arrive at Callisto along with a manned expedition, presumably the surface electrolysis plant requires some set-up. The Lighter is used to deliver the payload necessary for that initial set up. However both spacecraft are drones, and are intended to operate autonomously after that point. The tanker would make numerous return trips to LEO and transfer it's payload of hydrogen to an orbital propellent depot.

Cygnus, yeah. Just watched the video. Phil Plat has a good piece on Slate - be interesting to see what the final analysis turns up.
NyrathWiz's avatar
That's just gorgeous!
Betcha Dr. Parkinson wishes he could have used your art to illustrate his original article.
William-Black's avatar
Hey, thanks my friend.