NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 03- II F2.01-9243
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In-Situ Resources Utilization of Planetary Materials for Human Space Missions
PROPOSAL TITLE: Mars Aqueous Processing System

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Mark Berggren
11111 W. 8th Avenue, Unit A
Lakewood, CO 80215-5516
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

The Mars Aqueous Processing System (MAPS) is a novel technology for recovering oxygen, iron, and other constituents from lunar and Mars soils. The closed-loop process selectively extracts and then recovers constituents from soils using acids and bases. The emphasis on Mars is production of useful materials such as iron, silica, alumina, magnesia, and concrete with recovery of oxygen as a byproduct. On the Moon, similar chemistry is applied with emphasis on oxygen production.

Most lunar LOx processes only reduce FeO, which is generally present at just 10 to 15 percent in soils. All of the soil must be heated to reduce the contained FeO, resulting in substantial heat transfer issues. Thermal power requirements per unit of oxygen recovered are reduced by an order of magnitude and hydrogen losses are minimized if only a small mass of high-grade iron oxide concentrate, such as that produced by MAPS, is subjected to hydrogen reduction.

MAPS is significant because it can be co-developed for Mars and Moon applications. The process would be commissioned first for oxygen production on the Moon. Modular enhancements for manufacture of additional products would be implemented on the Moon and then on Mars, thereby reducing risks and costs.

MAPS extraction technology has potential terrestrial applications for treatment of soils contaminated with heavy metals and radionuclides. The MAPS acid manufacturing technology can potentially be used to recover SO2 emissions as saleable sulfuric acid instead of neutralized sludge for landfill disposal. MAPS materials fabrication techniques can potentially be used in remote regions to manufacture structures from non-conventional feeds.

MAPS can be commissioned first for lunar applications to generate oxygen with order of magnitude reductions in thermal power compared to bulk soil treatments. Later modular improvements can add recovery of iron, other metals, and metal oxides (including silicon dioxide, a key precursor for photovoltaic panel production). On Mars, all of these products plus concrete can be produced. The process can be developed in parallel for lunar and Martian purposes, resulting in mission cost savings and risk reduction.