NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 X1.03-9548
SUBTOPIC TITLE: In-Situ Resource Processing and Refining
PROPOSAL TITLE: Mars Integrated Propellant Production System

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Pioneer Astronautics
11111 W. 8th Ave., Unit A
Lakewood, CO 80215-5516

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Anthony Muscatello
Pioneer Astronauitcs, 11111 W. 8th Ave, unit A
Lakewood, CO 80215-5516

The Integrated Mars In-Situ Propellant Production System (IMISPPS) is an end-to-end system that will produce rocket propellant on Mars from CO2 in the Martian atmosphere. The IMISPPS combines the RWGS and Sabatier reactions in a single reactor to produce a useful high-specific impulse fuel (methane plus carbon monoxide) and water, which is condensed and electrolyzed to produce oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is recycled back to the Sabatier/RWGS reactor to react with Martian CO2 to produce more fuel, while the oxygen is cryogenically stored to provide oxidizer. Some of the carbon monoxide is removed by cryogenic separation to increase propellant specific impulse. Carbon dioxide acquisition to feed the fuel reactor is accomplished using a lightweight freezer. Use of the IMISPPS has the advantage of producing all the oxygen needed to burn the methane with only in a single catalytic reactor required. In the proposed work, we will build a brassboard core of the IMSIPPS and demonstrate its performance and reliability.

IMISPPS provides a technology for producing methane/oxygen rocket propellant on Mars with the correct oxidizer to fuel ratio in a single reactor using the CO2 atmosphere of Mars as the primary raw material. The leverage of the hydrogen imported from Earth would be at least 20, greatly reducing the cost and difficulty of sample return and human missions to Mars. Operation of a single reactor would reduce the system weight and complexity compared to systems based on the Sabatier process and an oxygen production process. Further processing of the methane and CO to benzene would increase the leverage to 53.

On Earth, the IMISPPS has applications in the area of carbon dioxide sequestration and processing to reduce the greenhouse effect. For example, cement kilns emit CO2 in high concentrations amenable to separation and processing. In conjunction with a renewable or nuclear power supply that generates hydrogen, the IMISPPS could be used to combine the hydrogen and CO2 to convert the hydrogen into a readily transportable form (methane) that easily fits into the existing energy infrastructure. The carbon monoxide could be combined with hydrogen using the Fischer-Tropsch process to produce valuable hydrocarbon products, such as alcohols, olefins and waxes.