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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Planetary Volatiles Extractor for In-Situ Resource Utilization

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

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In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) or ?living off the land relies on exploiting local resources and in turn reducing burden of transporting supplies. NASA has determined through various studies that ISRU will be critical for both robotic and human exploration of the Solar System. ISRU is also viewed by commercial Space companies as a significant source of revenue; volatiles (mainly water) could be mined and sold as Hydrogen/Oxygen fuel to satellite operators to extend spacecraft life. Traditional ISRU architecture follows methods employed in the mining industry on earth: material is mined, crushed, transported, crushed again, processed, and waste is disposed of. However, mining concrete-hard ice and icy-soil is difficult without using explosives. Volatiles will get lost during crushing and transportation, and robotic material handling, as shown by the 2008 Mars Phoenix mission, is difficult. For these reasons, we propose the Planetary Volatiles Extractor (PVEx) Corer, which uses a drill based excavation approach and an integrated volatiles extraction plant. PVEx successfully addresses several aspects: drills can penetrate hard materials, there is no need for material crushing and transfer, if volatiles sublime, they will flow directly into the capture system. PVEx can also work with hydrated minerals. Under the SBIR Phase 2 we propose to mature the technology from TRL 4 to TRL 5/6, and in turn ready the system for NASA's next HEOMD and SMD missions, as well as commercial planetary missions. More »

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