NASA Selects 10 Small Business Proposals for Lunar ISRU

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

As NASA prepares to send astronauts back to the moon in the Artemis program, the space agency is increasingly eyeing the use of lunar resources to reduce the expense of launching everything from Earth.

NASA recently selected 10 proposals to develop technologies for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

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NASA Selects University Teams to Develop Technologies to Enhance Its Artemis Missions

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA, in partnership with the National Space Grant Foundation, has selected seven university teams to develop innovative design ideas that will help NASA advance and execute its Artemis  program objectives.

The selections are a part of the 2021 Moon to Mars eXploration Systems and Habitation (M2M X-Hab)  Academic Innovation Challenge, sponsored by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) division. The winning teams will be given monetary awards ranging from $15,000- $50,000 to assist them in designing and producing studies, research findings or functional products that bridge strategic knowledge gaps, increase capabilities and lower technology risks related to NASA’s Moon to Mars space exploration missions.

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What is Old is New Again: NASA Releases Artemis Accords

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has released the Artemis Accords, which the space agency describes as a set of principles for a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space that it will require that partners in the lunar program adopt.

“International space agencies that join NASA in the Artemis program will do so by executing bilateral Artemis Accords agreements, which will describe a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for the benefit of humanity,” the space agency said.

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NASA Funds Lunar ISRU Technology Development

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected two projects focused on finding and extracting lunar resources for continued funding under phase II of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

Radiation Detection Technologies, Inc. of Manhattan, Kan., was selected to continue developing a neutron energy detector capable of locating sub-surface ice deposits.

Physical Sciences, Inc. (PSI), of Andover, Mass., is developing a solar concentrator system that would extract oxygen from lunar regolith.

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NASA Selects Paragon Space Development to Develop Advanced Cryogenic Tank

Paragon Space Development Corp. will continue to develop a new tank designed to better store cryogenic propellants with the help of funding from NASA.

The space agency selected Paragon’s ellipsoidal propellant tank (EPT) for continued funding under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The phase II award is worth up to $750,000 over two years. NASA funded the project under a smaller phase I award.

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NIAC Award: Fueling a Human Mission to Mars

In-situ propellant-production is critical to the space architecture needed for a long-term human presence on Mars, future interplanetary transport, and eventually, multi-planet colonization. (Credits: Caroline Genzale)

NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC) Phase I Award
Amount: $125,000

Fueling a Human Mission to Mars

Caroline Genzale
Georgia Tech Research Corporation

As a multidisciplinary team of mechanical, aerospace, and biological engineers, we propose to co-develop a renewable, liquid, storage stable rocket propellant that can be produced and burned on Mars using bioorganisms to perform atmospheric in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).

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NIAC Award — Aqua Factorem: Ultra Low-Energy Lunar Water Extraction

Graphic depicting the Aqua Factorem: Ultra Low-Energy Lunar Water Extraction concept. (Credits: Philip Metzger)

NASA Innovative Advance Concept (NIAC)
Phase I Award
Amount: $125,000

Aqua Factorem: Ultra Low-Energy Lunar Water Extraction

Philip Metzger
University of Central Florida

We propose a new method we call Aqua Factorem to extract lunar water. It will drastically reduce energy and complexity of lunar mining operations helping to establish this industry.

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NIAC Award: Lunar Polar Propellant Mining Outpost

Graphic depiction of the Lunar Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO) concept. (Credits: Joel Sercel)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)
Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Lunar Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO): A Breakthrough for Lunar Exploration & Industry

Joel Sercel
Trans Astronautica Corporation

The Lunar Polar Mining Outpost (LPMO) (see quad chart graphic) is a breakthrough mission architecture that promises to greatly reduce the cost of human exploration and industrialization of the Moon.

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‘Major Takeaways from the 2019 Mining Space Summit

White Paper from the Luxembourg Space Agency focusses on opportunities for collaboration between terrestrial and space mining sectors

LUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg Space Agency PR) — On 9 October 2019, the second Mining Space Summit gathered more than 180 experts, from 24 countries, working in fields as diverse as oil & gas, terrestrial mining, space, finance, and government.

Held in Luxembourg, the goal of the Summit was to understand the technical and economic challenges facing the space resources industry and make recommendations for the future growth of this high technology sector.

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Help NASA Design a Robot to Dig on the Moon

A close-up view of the bucket drums on Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR) in the regolith bin inside Swamp Works at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 5, 2019. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

By Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Digging on the Moon is a hard job for a robot. It has to be able to collect and move lunar soil, or regolith, but anything launching to the Moon needs to be lightweight. The problem is excavators rely on their weight and traction to dig on Earth. NASA has a solution, but is looking for ideas to make it better. Once matured, robotic excavators could help NASA establish a sustainable presence on the Moon under the Artemis lunar exploration program, a few years after landing astronauts on the surface.

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ESA Opens Oxygen Plant – Making Air Out of Moondust

ESA research fellow Alexandre Meurisse and Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow preparing to make oxygen and metal out of simulated moondust inside ESA’s Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory. (Credit: ESA–A. Conigili)

ESA’s technical heart has begun to produce oxygen out of simulated moondust.

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands (ESA PR) — A prototype oxygen plant has been set up in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

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Report: China Could Follow South China Sea Strategy in Seeking Space Resources

Optical Mining of Asteroids, Moons, and Planets to Enable Sustainable Human Exploration and Space Industrialization (Credits: Joel Sercel)

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine how China is seeking to shape the governance of space activities. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s actions in asserting sovereignty over the disputed South China Sea could serve as a model by which that nation would claim extraterrestrial resources and consolidate its control over key space assets, a new report to the U.S. Congress warned.

“Contrary to international norms governing the exploration and commercial exploitation of space, statements from senior Chinese officials signal Beijing’s belief in its right to claim use of space-based resources in the absence of a clear legal framework specifically regulating mining in space,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 report.

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China’s Ambitious Plans to Dominate Cislunar Space

China’s Yutu 2 rover drives off the Chang’e-4 lander. (Credit: CNSA)

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine China’s plans to achieve a commanding position in cislunar space. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is determined to establish a commanding position in cislunar space, seeing it as a strategic location from which to dominate the final frontier.

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