LEO Launch Capabilities

Analysis of Launch Capabilities for Low Earth Orbit

SYST 798/OR 680 Capstone Project Course

George Mason University
Systems Engineering and Operations Research
Class of Spring 2012


Constantly changing political agendas have stagnated the progress of a space industry that relies on NASA and other government agencies for its growth. The private sector has responded to this challenge in the last ten years, with a flood of space-­‐related investment from space tourism to innovative rocket design. SPEC Innovations hopes to take advantage of investment opportunities available in the private space sector by implementing their Interstellar Action Alliance project. This initiative is a long-­‐term space exploration plan that uses private sector investment and a series of stepping-­‐ stones with individual Return on Investment to go from where we are today to interstellar travel. The first step in this project is to establish a permanent base in Low Earth Orbit, which can facilitate construction, and can be a base of operations for longer-­‐range missions. A primary concern in the construction of this permanent base is the cost and feasibility of transporting materials and construction workers to Low Earth Orbit.

This project is an analysis of the current Low Earth Orbit Launch (LEO) Capabilities of Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of seven or above according to the NASA TRL scale. Constraints and goals were set by SPEC Innovations to provide bounds for the proposed model. The primary goals consisted of transporting 1000 metric tons of material to LEO in a timeframe of 30 months with a maximum total cost of $32 Billion.


The primary objectives of this project, relating to both SPEC Innovations’ needs and the considerations of George Mason University are as follows:

• Demonstrate the ability to provide problem definition, stakeholder analysis, operation modeling, analysis of results, and a viable way forward to our sponsor.

• Demonstrate the training and skills received from the George Mason University SEOR department and the ability to apply those skills to a diverse set of problems.

• Provide SPEC Innovations with an analysis of current launch capabilities, giving them reasonable estimates regarding the implementation of the launch capabilities portion of the IAA, as well as an optimal mix of launch capabilities given current cost and schedule constraints.

• Provide SPEC Innovations with an analysis of our resulting including a sensitivity analysis for our optimization model, demonstrating how the optimal set of launch capabilities are sensitive to variation within model inputs.

• Provide SPEC Innovations with a risk analysis of current launch capabilities, taking into consideration the risks involved in various launch capabilities and focusing in particular on the companies or governments providing the capabilities.

• Provide SPEC Innovations with recommendations for possible future efforts continuing the work detailed in this paper as well as future efforts centered on the IAA.


SPEC Innovations

  • Dr. Keith Taggart (keith.taggart@specinnovations.com)
  • Dr. Steven Dam (steven.dam@specinnovations.com)