NASA Awards Small Business Contracts to Manage Lunar Dust

Apollo 17 spacesuits and helmets were covered in abrasive lunar dust after three days of exploring the moon. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Lunar dust feels like fine snow, is strangely abrasive, and smells like burnt gun powder when exposed to oxygen.

It was a minor annoyance during the Apollo missions, which lasted a maximum of three days. Now that NASA is planning to send astronauts back to the moon to stay in the Artemis program, the space agency is looking for ways to control lunar dust so it doesn’t clog up spacesuits, spacecraft and habitats.

NASA has selected nine proposals that address with lunar dust for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research program. The phase I contracts are worth up to $125,000 for a maximum of six months.

The proposals covered a range of technologies. Blazetech Corporation of Woburn, Mass., will develop “an advanced self-cleaning staged dust filter for spacecraft air purification in cabin and airlock chambers.”

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology has teamed with WiBotic to develop wireless transmission for power systems whose mechanical connections would be prone to getting clogged with lunar dust.

WattGlass of Fayetteville, Ark., will work on coatings for solar panels designed to mitigate lunar and Martian dust.

NASA also selected a proposal from Off Planet Research of Lacey, Wash., that will begin development of self-cleaning, dust-proof fluid and gas connectors.

Links to these projects and other five selected proposals are below.

Applied Particle Technology, Inc.
Saint Louis, MO
In-situ optical speciation and size distribution monitoring instrument for lunar dust management

Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
Pittsburgh, PA
High Power Near-Field Wireless Transfer for Dust Intensive Applications

Blazetech Corporation
Woburn, MA
Lunar Dust Filter for Spacecraft Atmospheres

Hedgefog Research, Inc.
San Pedro, CA
Bendable Electrodynamic Dust Shields

Mainstream Engineering Corporation
Rockledge, FL
Cyclone Precipitator Sub-Micron Particulate Separator

Off Planet Research, LLC
Lacey, WA
Self-Cleaning Dust Proof Fluid and Gas Connector

PolyK Technologies, LLC
State College, PA
Integrated Approach for Space Active and Passive Dust Mitigation Enabled by Electroactive Polymer Technology

Triton Systems, Inc.
Chelmsford, MA
Dust Tolerant Joints

WattGlass
Fayetteville, AR
Solar Array Coatings for Mitigating Lunar and Martian Dust