In situ resource utilization (ISRU) is essential for several of NASA's future flagship missions. Currently envisioned ISRU plants include production of oxygen from hydrogen reduction of lunar regolith and extraction of water from Martian regolith or asteroid material. NASA's Regolith & Environmental Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) mission's objectives are to analyze the distribution of volatile compounds in the lunar surface and to demonstrate ISRU operation on the moon. To support ISRU activities, NASA requires the development of a compact, lightweight gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC/MS) instrument that can quantify volatile gases with masses below atomic number 70 released by sample heating. The instrument must also be designed to withstand exposure to the release of HF, HCl, or Hg that may result from heating regolith samples to high temperatures. Creare proposes to design, build, and test a compact, lightweight GC/MS system capable of detecting, identifying, and quantifying 100 ppm to 100%-level concentrations of relevant compounds having mass less than 70 amu. Our GC/MS design is based on components that can be space qualified using techniques proven on numerous past space hardware development projects. During the Phase I project, we proved our design with benchtop testing, and in Phase II, we plan to build a brassboard version of our GC/MS that will meet the important performance requirements for the intended application.More »
The main initial application area for the proposed GC/MS for ISRU plants will be in NASA's RESOLVE mission to the surface of the moon. Other future missions to Mars and the Moon, as well as other bodies such as Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) will also benefit from this development. Long-duration missions to the Moon will need substantial amounts of resources for life support and energy. Martian sample return missions and manned missions to Mars may be prohibitively expensive, technically exigent, and unacceptably risky unless resources can be produced on Mars. An ISRU propellant production plant on Mars may be needed for the sample return mission that NASA is envisioning in the 2020s.
The primary private sector applications for the proposed GC/MS system is for use in performing portable chemical analysis, particularly when looking for harmful gases in harsh environments. The sensitive and specific sensor that we propose to develop will not only help ensure the timely generation of data for hazardous gas detection, but will also provide this capability to commercial organizations wishing to perform chemical analysis in the field. For example, the proposed system would be invaluable for supporting first responder personnel who need to determine the safety of areas during cleaning and securing activities for interval testing in different areas. On the commercial front, inexpensive portable mass spectrometers would revolutionize pollution monitoring, process control, and the response to incidents by emergency personnel.
|Organizations Performing Work
|Hanover, New Hampshire
|Kennedy Space Center (KSC)
|Kennedy Space Center, Florida