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
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.
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.
NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months
Lunar-Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO): Affordable Exploration and Industrialization Joel Sercel TransAstra Corporation
The Lunar Polar Gas-Dynamic Mining Outpost (LGMO) (see quad chart graphic) is a breakthrough mission architecture that promises to greatly reduce the cost of human exploration and industrialization of the Moon. LGMO is based on two new innovations that together solve the problem of affordable lunar polar ice mining for propellant production.
TOKYO (ispace PR) — ispace, inc, a private lunar robotic exploration company, announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to jointly create a roadmap for lunar resource development. Under this agreement, both parties will utilize their knowledge and network to develop plans and frameworks for creating an industry around lunar resource mining, delivery and utilization.
Japan has taken a first step toward developing a lunar mining industry.
Japan is leaping into space resources, agreeing to work with a robotic-exploration company to create a blueprint for an industry to extract resources from the moon that would enable more extensive space exploration.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Japan’s space agency, said Friday that it signed a memorandum of understanding with Tokyo-based ispace technologies Inc. to work on building an industry “for the mining, transport and use of resources on the moon,” according to a statement by ispace. A spokeswoman for the agency, known as JAXA, confirmed the agreement….
Ispace manages business operations for Team Hakuto, the only Japanese competitor for the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize competition. Sixteen teams are competing to land a probe on the moon, move it 500 meters, and send high-definition photos and video back to earth by the end of 2017.
A new London Economics market study commissioned by the X Prize Foundation indicates that commercial opportunities at the moon will be worth billions of dollars in the decades ahead.
“With an overall estimated market value in the 10 years directly following the competition of US$1.9 billion, and $6.4 billion over the 25 year longer term, it is clear that the Google Lunar XPRIZE presents a very significant incentive for teams to organize themselves to pursue and capture the various commercial opportunities that they can access,” the study states.
PITTSBURGH, PA (Astrobotic PR) –Astrobotic Technology Inc. announces a NASA contract to determine whether its polar rover can deploy an ice-prospecting payload to the Moon. The ice could yield water, oxygen, methane and rocket propellant to dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration.
“Astrobotic seeks the immense resources available on the Moon to both accelerate space exploration and improve life on Earth,” said David Gump, president. “The lunar path is near term. We intend a prospecting mission in 2015.”
Mountain View, CA (ME PR) – Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, announced today that it has successfully delivered a mission design package to NASA under its Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD) Program, providing NASA continuing data on the development of the company’s commercial lunar missions and plans to mine the Moon for precious planetary resources. The newest task order in the $10M ILDD contract called for Moon Express to provide NASA with data about the company’s progress through a Preliminary Design Checkpoint Technical Package that documents details of mission operations, spacecraft development, payload accommodations and Planetary Protection Plans. (more…)
Largely lost in Moon Express’s announcement last week of a partnership with Auto Desk was the announcement of a new space prize:
Moon Express also announced “The Moon is ME” Lunar Mining Design Competition as a global challenge to design lunar mining tools that the MERLIN rovers can utilize to acquire and transport lunar samples containing valuable metals and minerals. The competition is global and open to students as well as professional designers using Autodesk software. The top designs will be prototyped and demonstrated in a field test competition at Moon Express facilities at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley. The winning prize design will be funded by the company for potential test and demonstration on the Moon.
In essence, Moon Express is going to crowd source these valuable tools instead of hiring people to internally design them.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has an update on Astrobotics lunar mining plans, including interviews with Red Whittaker and David Gump:
Astrobotic’s planned 2014 mission consists of a robot that would use a circular bucket wheel and a large bin to collect lunar soil for the inaugural attempt to mine the moon at its south pole, said Chris Skonieczny, Astrobotic’s principal researcher and a CMU doctoral candidate in robotics.
Michael A’Hearn, University of Maryland “Water or Rocks: Resources for Earth or for Exploration?”
Brad Blair, SSI, and Prof. Leslie Gertsch, University of Missouri-Rolla “Mining Methods for Asteroid Utilization” Mark Sonter, Asteroid Enterprises Pty Ltd. “Mining Concepts Development for Assessing Asteroid Resources”
Dr. Faith Vilas, University of Arizona “Resources from Asteroids: What We Can Expect From What We Now Know” (more…)
NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology and Carnegie Mellon University to develop a prototype robot for mining water and methane ices at the Moonâ€™s poles. These volatiles can refuel astronautsâ€™ spacecraft for their return trip to Earth, halving the cost of human Moon expeditions.