In-space refueling

The Augustine panel emphasized the feasibility of orbiting fuel depots, an option that would make the Atlas V or Decatur IV more feasible for cargo missions.

“Studies commissioned by the Committee found that in-space refueling could increase by at least two to three times the injection capability from low-Earth orbit of a launcher system, and in some cases more,” the report states. For example, the planned Ares V could launch 130 metric tons to the moon by refueling in space, as opposed to just 63 metric tons if it carries all its fuel from Earth.

According to Technology Review, Russia has already performed in-space refueling of space stations using its Progress spacecraft.

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