2. Features and Mechanisms
2.1. Basic Model
Using the methods outlined below, the US Government will purchase a set of commodities at various Nodes within the Earth/Moon system (and potentially other locations around the Solar System). Nodes are locations where the orbital mechanics of the system dictate useful low energy transfers to other orbits (see Figure 1 below). Commercial companies will apply to run commodity storage and transfer facilities at each node and will be paid storage and transfer fees by the US Government for operating the facility. The companies are free to offer other services at each Node beyond commodity storage and transfer.
Unlike previous proposals, the commodities purchased are not limited to rocket fuel but include other consumables (air, water, coolant, etc) plus precursor chemicals (ammonia, methane, etc) sufficient to produce a variety of derivative chemicals and products.
The funding and payment system is intended to start as close to zero as possible and grow as the industry grows to service Nodes and provide commodities. If Congress sets the budget for the purchase of commodities at zero then a provision outlined below provides for privileged appropriations legislation only on an as-needed basis. Once these become frequent Congress can appropriate a standing budget for the program.
2.2. Node Physics
The basic framework for the reserve is driven by the orbital mechanics of the inner Solar System (planets inside the orbit of Jupiter) and the unique pattern of transfer orbits between them. These transfer orbits dictate the basic costs of moving anything around in space and are measured in the change in velocity needed to move from one point to another. This change in velocity is referred to as Δv or “delta-v” where the Greek letter Δ represents the rate of change. Figure 1 illustrates the basic Δv values for most of the interesting locations in the inner Solar System.
As an example, one of the highest, and thus most expensive, Δv requirements is from the surface of the Earth to Low Earth Orbit at 9.3 km/s. That is roughly the save Δv required to go from Earth to the surface of Mars.
An important feature is that there are natural ‘balance’ points where the gravity of the Earth and the Moon cancel out and thus provide low Δv routes to other locations. EML-1 and EML-1 are two such locations and are extremely valuable and strategic waypoints.
The fundamental problem of any commodities reserve is understanding how to price the commodity when purchased or sold. In space, the cost of moving a commodity from one Node to another is many orders of magnitude higher than the value of the commodity itself. But each commodity has a different mass (water is heavy, hydrogen is very lite) and mass greatly affects the Δv calculations.
A proposal for how to calculate a price that takes Δv and commodity mass into about is included in the Appendix at the end of this proposal. Using that method, transporting 10kg of water from EML-1 to GEO would cost $22,661 whereas that same 10kg of water from the Earth to the Lunar surface would cost $257,057. This proposal is included to demonstrate one possible method for calculating a price standard but further analysis of other possible methods is a necessary next
Organic Consumables and Propellants
The original version of this proposal focused exclusively on propellants as the primary goal.
After discussions with stakeholders, it became clear that there was sufficient demand for other commodities, especially for the International Space Station and Gateway programs, that other basic commodities should be included. There was also some consensus that the Reserve should focus on “precursor” materials that can easily be turned into other materials using well-known processes. Examples include water providing O2 and H2 for fuel and breathable oxygen. Methane (CH4) as propellant is growing in popularity but can also be processed into fertilizer, simple carbohydrates, and even plastics. Ammonia (NH3) is a precursor for both fertilizer and hydrazine, a common in-space propellant. The commodities are all basic combinations of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen and are commonly referred to by the acronym CHON. By adding phosphorus and sulfur compounds (e.g. CHONPS) a system has the ability to create most organic molecules which often include high thrust rocket fuels.
Electric Propulsion Propellants
Electric propulsion systems such as HAL Effect thrusters or Field Emission Electric Propulsion (FEEP) thrusters use propellants with high atomic mass and low energy ionization such as iodine, xenon, or krypton. Many spacecraft currently in production or already on orbit use various eclectic propulsion systems.
While in-space manufacturing of complex components using additive manufacturing (e.g. “3d printing”) is a very recent development, there have already been several space-compatible feedstocks identified that could become valuable commodities in the short term. Companies have already demonstrated the manufacturing and assembly of components made from vacuum-compatible polymers in microgravity. Stockpiles of feedstocks within the Reserve can provide the rudimentary supply chains necessary for in-space manufacturing of large and complex structures.
2.5. Funding Mechanisms
Prior to the delivery of any commodity to any Node, no appropriation would be required other than that required for a Federal loan guarantee to enable commercial providers to build, launch and operate commodity storage and transfer facilities at Reserve recognized Nodes. Following the process below, if no commodity delivery appropriations have been passed then the process in Section (e) is followed. This provides a feature where Federal spending for the Reserve grows in lockstep with the growth of the commodities delivered to the Reserve and initially requires no appropriations at all.
Within the Reserve program, as with other Reserve programs, if the Commodity at a Node that was previously purchased by the Reserve is then sold to a non-US Government entity at a price higher than it previously paid, the profit is returned to the US Treasury.
The compensation plan language found in the launch indemnification section of  and the payments of claims sections of  provide an existing and compatible template for payments for a delivered commodity. The language below is lifted directly from those statutes and has been slightly modified for
this application. Essentially, if payment for delivery of a commodity to a Node exceeds the Agency’s existing appropriated budget (including any reprogramming authority) and the commodity/Node is not already covered by an existing contract (e.g. water/air/propellant to the ISS), then the Agency will indicate to the President of an unappropriated liability at which point the following process would be triggered:
(d) Compensation Plans
(2) Not later than 90 days after the Agency indicates that the delivery of a commodity to a Node represents a liability larger than the Agency’s existing appropriated budget, the President, on the recommendation of the Agency, shall submit to Congress a compensation plan that—
(A) outlines the total dollar value of the delivery;
(B) recommends sources of amounts to pay for the delivery;
(C) includes legislative language required to carry out the plan if additional legislative authority is required; and
(D) for a single delivery, may not be for more than $100,000,000.
(3) A compensation plan submitted to Congress under paragraph (2) of this subsection shall—
(A) have an identification number; and
(B) be submitted to the Senate and the House of Representatives on the same day and when the Senate and House are in session.
(1) In this subsection, “resolution”—
(A) means a joint resolution of Congress the matter after the resolving clause of which is as follows: “That the Congress approves the
compensation plan numbered _____ submitted to the Congress on _____ __, 20__.”, with the blank spaces being filled appropriately; but
(B) does not include a resolution that includes more than one compensation plan.
(2) The Senate shall consider under this subsection a compensation plan requiring additional appropriations or legislative authority not later than
60 calendar days of continuous session of Congress after the date on which the plan is submitted to Congress.
(3) A resolution introduced in the Senate shall be referred immediately to a committee by the President of the Senate. All resolutions related to the
same plan shall be referred to the same committee.
(A) If the committee of the Senate to which a resolution has been referred does not report the resolution within 20 calendar days after it is referred, a motion is in order to discharge the committee from further consideration of the resolution or to discharge the committee from further consideration of the plan.
(B) A motion to discharge may be made only by an individual favoring the resolution and is highly privileged (except that the motion may not be made after the committee has reported a resolution on the plan). Debate on the motion is limited to one hour, to be divided equally between those favoring and those opposing the resolution. An amendment to the motion is not in order. A motion to reconsider the vote by which the motion is agreed to or disagreed to is not in order.
(C) If the motion to discharge is agreed to or disagreed to, the motion may not be renewed and another motion to discharge the committee from another resolution on the same plan may not be made.
(A) After a committee of the Senate reports, or is discharged from further consideration of, a resolution, a motion to proceed to the consideration of the resolution is in order at any time, even though a similar previous motion has been disagreed to. The motion is highly privileged and is not debatable. An amendment to the motion is not in order. A motion to reconsider the vote by which the motion is agreed to or disagreed to is not in order.
(B) Debate on the resolution referred to in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph is limited to not more than 10 hours, to be divided equally between those favoring and those opposing the resolution. A motion further to limit debate is not debatable. An amendment to, or motion to recommit, the resolution is not in order. A motion to reconsider the vote by which the resolution is agreed to or disagreed to is not in order.
(6) The following shall be decided in the Senate without debate:
(A) a motion to postpone related to the discharge from committee.
(B) a motion to postpone consideration of a resolution.
(C) a motion to proceed to the consideration of other business.
(D) an appeal from a decision of the chair related to the application of the rules of the Senate to the procedures related to a resolution.
2.6. Storage and Transfer Facility Financing
Reserve facilities are located at the International Space Station (51.6° orbital inclination), equatorial LEO, EML-1, EML-2, Low Lunar Orbit, the Lunar Surface, EML-4, and EML-5. The Artemis Gateway facility in a near-rectilinear halo orbit about the Moon and a potential facility in Mars orbit are also options. The facility or facilities at each Node may be financed using limited Federal Loan Guarantees and will charge all users, including the Federal Government, standard storage and transfer fees. The Agency will determine and publish storage and transfer fee schedules for Reserve commodity transactions on a yearly basis.
2.7. Existing Contracts
The facility at an orbital inclination of 51.6 degrees is assumed to be the International Space Station. The existing ISS contracts for consumables such as air and water should be subsumed under the Reserve system of contracts.
2.8. Home Agency Considerations
The current assumption is that the program will be administered by the Commerce Department’s Office of Space Commerce in order to ensure that the program does not impact NASA’s existing R&D programs and to prevent conflicts arising from NASA acting as both the Reserve’s administrator and one of the customers of the commodities being purchased or sold.