As a tentative proposal for a near- to mid- term project, I suggest the development of a Modular Universally Adaptable Support Craft. This would be composed of a
plug-in command/control module, attached to a modular support frame. Other modular components would be attached as necessary for a given mission. Conceptually, this would be similar to the
Sky Crane helicopter (or, the fictional
Eagle Transport from Space:1999); except that the basic structure would only include the frame with a detachable capsul. As with the
Sky Crane, functional modules (either standardised or irregular) could be attached to the frame, possibly docked to the capsul (as extended habitational space). An approriate propulsion system would then be attached, along with required provisions and equipment to operate that propulsion system (power, fuel, propellant, etc). The frame can be extended as necessary, both lengthwise and laterally. All components would be structured around a standardised array of connector points.
The benefit of this adaptable system would be that the structure could then be near-optimised for any given mission, and then quickly reconfigured for the next mission. With the adaptable structure, selected components could support any
flight regime, whether aeronautic, astronautic, oceanic, terrestrial, or off-world (etc). The propulsion system would be selected for the appropriate regime, components would be selected for the mission, numbers and types of tanks (whether for propellant or crew provisions, etc) would be selected according to the required mission endurance parametres. On the one hand, this means that you would not have to settle with a compromised configuration that is not particularly ideal for any mission. On the other hand, you would not have to have a completely different craft for every mission type. While you would be carrying extra mass (on the host operator) that is not required for certain missions, many of the components would be common to most, if not all missions (notably, the command module and basic support frame). Many elements would normally be distributed amongst a
fleet of craft that would be able to operate simultaneously; or, the components could be
stripped from some craft in order to configure a single craft for a mission requiring greater endurance.
These craft would be intended to perform a number of functions, within and/or across a number of missions. These would include transport (vessel to vessel, same body orbit to orbit, different body orbit to orbit, surface to orbit, etc), exploration, operational support (for mining, construction, etc), inspection, training, etc. For the near term, the craft would be used for surface and oceanic operations. This would allow for proof-of-concept development and testing; as well as simultaneous practical (real-world) infrastructural development, through actual mission operations. Once established, these would be made available to other agencies and organisations, including terrestrial, aeronautic, and space-targeted.
Eventually, the craft would be used for our own space-based operations.
While I already have the basic concept figured out, and can produce a CAD render myself, I could use the help of an actual architect, a qualified engineer, and any other interested parties who would be willing to do some troubleshooting, brainstorming, and
The concept is based on standardised modular construction. I envision five basic categories of component modules (although actual modules might belong to multiple categories):
Command (or Control)- responsible for the integration and coordination of the overall collection of modules, or any subgroup;
Operations- modules responsible for specific or general mission functions, conducting actual
manipulations (these are the
arms & legs of the craft);
Intelligence- modules responsible for the collection and analysis of information (these are essentially the
eyes & ears of the craft);
Systems- responsible or assuring the actual operability of the craft, including propulsion units,
flight actuators, life support / environmental control equipment, computer systems, etc (this essentially includes all integrated hardware, as well as maintenance support activity);
Services- responsible for the storage and distribution of provisions for the craft (propellant, fuel, etc), passengers & crew (atmosphere supply, nutrients, etc, and mission support (ammunitions/ordnance, probes, etc) --(this includes, but is not necessarily limited to, all
expendables, as well as support activity).