Moving people from a A to B in space often requires a significant change in velocity, requiring propellant eating into the mass budget.

But most of this propellant is "wasted" in moving a fully facilitated spacecraft, not just the people aboard.

What if we got rid of the spacecraft? This is the concept of an orbital pogo stick. Cosmonauts can stay in their EVA suits for a couple of hours, fire up a minimal propulsion system, and check into a hotel at the other end.

How "minimal" is such a minimal propulsion system? It's a little rocket engine, tanks, some controls, restraints to prevent passengers from flailing around in terror provide comfort during the flight. How much could it be?

Some closely applicable studies are the one-man Lunar Flying Vehicle, dry mass without pilot of 141.8 kg, and its cousin the two-man Lunar Escape System at 171.5 kg.

These would be a baseline, but the use case is different. A surface launch is different from a transfer in space.

There has also been some technological advances in the 50 years since these were considered. (The LESS report has a VHF transponder at 25 pounds!)

LESS docking

  • $\begingroup$ To have humans in orbit is expensive. I have a hard time imagining a purpose for this kind of solution. Except a tourist sightseeing of course. Even satellite inspection/repair would be easier to do without human hands-on. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2023 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ If you send up a cosmonaut in a flying chair to go to an orbital station, you have to send up a second full spacecraft to bring them back down, if desired. If you send up a cosmonaut in a working spacecraft, they can use that spacecraft to come back down in. outside of dramatic license in fiction, there's not currently a use case for going from one space station to another, or from space station to other orbiting satellite. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Feb 4, 2023 at 23:05
  • $\begingroup$ @notovny Current rewed spaceflight is limited to LEO shuttling, so I agree with you there. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2023 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ You don’t need a full spacecraft to get out of orbit - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOOSE $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2023 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ I'd seriously consider some type of nav/guidance capability onboard the "pogo stick." When orbital mechanics come into play, things can get hazardous for the "pogo stick" riders, along with the destination vehicle... $\endgroup$
    – Digger
    Feb 5, 2023 at 20:29


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