NASA 1998 SBIR Phase I


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 98-1 09.01-5000B

PROJECT TITLE: Lunar Ice Simulator

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS)

ORBITEC proposes the development of a Lunar Ice Simulator (LIS). The objective of the research is to create a system that can simulate the physical structure of the lunar ice/dust mixtures to test and demonstrate mechanisms for the mining and processing of lunar ice deposits. The fundamental purpose is to have a simulator available for supporting experiments as ice was discovered by the Lunar Prospector mission. The simulator would be used to perform scientific experiments to help determine the characteristics of the lunar ice deposits. This includes measuring fundamental properties such as the form of the ice deposited by sublimation at cryogenic temperatures. ORBITEC proposes to design a lunar ice simulator in Phase 1 that would be built and tested in Phase II. The simulator would be utilized to support studies of ice extraction from the lunar regolith in permanently-shadowed areas. The preliminary requirements for future simulator systems large enough to accommodate full-scale testing of a lunar robotic lander or ice recovery systems would also be determined.

POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

The Moon is an attractive source of resources for the development of near-Earth space, because it is close to Earth, has a small gravity field and most of the chemical elements important in the development of space capabilities (e.g., oxygen, metals) can be readily found. The most significant problem of lunar development is the scarcity of fuel for spacecraft. Although oxygen is present in abundance in the minerals of the lunar regolith, no concentrated source of hydrogen was known with certainty to exist, prior to the recent Lunar Prospector mission. If rocket fuel must be imported to the Moon to launch payloads from the Moon, it is very difficult to devise a low-cost Moon-to-space transportation system. However, if both fuel and oxidizer can be obtained locally, a reusable transportation system that can reach Moon-orbit space at low cost may be feasible. This is the promise of lunar water. Water can easily be electrolyzed to produce hydrogen and oxygen, be liquefied and used as propellants. If developed as a supply of propellant, a myriad of other beneficial uses for lunar water could be developed, ranging from life support to construction materials.

NAME AND ADDRESS OF PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Dr. Eric E. Rice
Orbital Technologies Corporation
Space Center, 1212 Fourier Drive
Madison , WI 53717

NAME AND ADDRESS OF OFFEROR

Orbital Technologies Corporation
Space Center, 1212 Fourier Drive
Madison , WI 53717