By 2020, NASA plans to establish a long-term human presence on the Moon, which means that necessities such as fuel, food and oxygen, and spare parts would have to get from the Earth to the Moon as predictably as an Earth-based delivery system - especially when the delivery point is 240,000 miles away.

MIT researchers and professors Olivier L. de Weck and David Simchi-Levi created SpaceNet software for modeling interplanetary supply chains. Although "supply chain" usually refers to the flow of goods in and out of manufacturing facilities and retail stores, an interplanetary supply chain would operate much the same way.

The system is based on a network of nodes on planetary surfaces, in stable orbits around the Earth, the moon, or Mars, or at well- defined points in space where the gravitational force between the two bodies cancel each other out. These nodes act as a source, point of consumption, or transfer point for space exploration logistics.

SpaceNet simulates the flow of vehicles, crew, and supply items through the trajectories of a space supply network, taking into account how much fuel and time are needed for single missions as well as multi-year campaigns in which a cargo shipment might have to be prepositioned by one set of vehicles or crewmembers while being used by another.

Click here for more information on SpaceNet software.

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