NIAC Award: Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies

Thermal mining of ices on cold solar system bodies (Credit: George Sowers)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phae I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies
George Sowers
Colorado School of Mines

Innovation

  • Applying heat directly to frozen volatile bearing materials allows extraction of the volatile without the cost, mass and complexity of excavation.
  • Heat is applied directly to the surface in the form of redirected sunlight or subsurface via conducting rods or heaters emplaced in boreholes.
  • Vapor is captured within a dome-like tent and refrozen in cold traps for processing.

Technical Approach

  • Colorado School of Mines brings its world renowned expertise in terrestrial resource extraction to space.
  • We will explore locations throughout the solar system where Thermal Mining might be applicable.
  • We will develop a detailed mission scenario for the use of Thermal Mining for lunar water extraction.
  • We will test the effectiveness of various Thermal Mining techniques in our cryogenic vacuum chamber.

Potential & Benefits

  • Estimates for extracting water from the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon show Thermal Mining can produce industrial quantities of water (for propellant) for 60% less mass and energy than excavation.
  • Volatiles have many uses for space exploration and space commerce.
  • Propellant from lunar polar ice will lower all transportation costs beyond low Earth orbit by factors from three to seventy.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List

This Week on The Space Show


This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1. Monday, Jan.22 , 2018: 2-3:30 PM PST (4-5:30 PM CST, 5-6:30 PM EST): No show today due to Space Show moving.

2. Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018: 7-8:30 PM PST, 10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST: No show today due to Space Show moving

3. Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018: Hotel Mars. See Upcoming Show Menu and the website newsletter for details. Hotel Mars is pre-recorded by John Batchelor. It is archived on The Space Show site after John posts it on his website.

4. Friday, Jan. 26, 2018; 9:30 AM-11 PM PST, (12:30 -2 PM EST; 11:30 AM-1 PM CST): No show due to Space Show move.

5. Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018: 12-1:30 PM PST; 2-4:30 PM EST; 2-3:30 PM CST.DR. GEORGE SOWERS is our guest. Now with The Colorado School of Mines, we will be talking about a variety of timely issues. .

House Space Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Private Lunar Exploration

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

House Subcommittee on Space Hearing
Private Sector Lunar Exploration

Thursday, September 7, 2017 – 10:00am
2318 Rayburn House Office Building)

Hearing Purpose

NASA is supporting private sector exploration of the Moon through various programs. The private sector is also investing their own funding in the hopes of serving a future market for transportation, cargo delivery, and surface operations (including in situ resource utilization). Moon Express plans to launch a mission to the Moon later this year or early next year. Astrobotic recently announced a mission in 2019. Blue Origin disclosed its “Blue Moon” concept last spring. The United Launch Alliance and SpaceX have also indicated plans to operate in cislunar space in the near-future. The Hearing will review these efforts, and NASA’s role, in order to better understand the challenges and opportunities that they present.

Witnesses:

  • Mr. Jason Crusan, director, Advanced Exploration Systems, NASA
  • Mr. Bob Richards, founder and CEO, Moon Express, Inc.
  • Mr. John Thornton, chief executive officer, Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
  • Mr. Bretton Alexander, director of business development and strategy, Blue Origin
  • Dr. George Sowers, professor, space resources, Colorado School of Mines

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This Week on The Space Show


This week on The Space Show with David Livingston….

1. Monday, November 12, 2012, 2-3:30 PM PST (5-6:30 PM EST, 4-5:30 PM CST): We welcome back GEORGE SOWERS OF ULA.. Mr. Sowers will be with us for the first hour. We will return for the balance of the program with an open Q&A session.

2. Tuesday, November 13 , 2012, 7-8:30 PM PST (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST): DR. SEAN CASEY returns to discuss new happenings in Silicon Valley relating to space development and commerce.

3. Friday, November 16, 2012, 9:30-11 AM PST (11:30- 1 PM CST, 12:30PM-2:00 PM EST): We welcome back FRANK STRATFORD of Mars Drive regarding his recent Space Review articles and ideas for human missions to Mars.

4. Sunday, November 18, 2012, 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2–3:30 PM CST). This is a traditional OPEN LINES program. All space related calls are welcome. First time callers are especially encouraged to give us a call. Lurking simply not allowed.