New NASA Lunar Tech Funding Opportunity for U.S. Universities

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s new lunar surface technology research (LuSTR) opportunity seeks U.S. universities’ ideas to advance technologies needed for sustainable operations on the Moon. Via the solicitation, NASA will fund lunar technology development and accelerate the readiness of systems and components.

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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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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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ESA, Luxembourg Sign MOU on Space Resources

SEVILLE, Spain (ESA PR) — A Memorandum of Cooperation to further commit to strengthening cooperation in the field of space resources and innovation was signed by Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider and ESA Director General ESA Jan Wörner.

Following the establishment of the SpaceResources.lu initiative in 2016 to promote and develop the research, economic and legal aspects of space resources, ESA and the Luxembourg Space Agency have been working together to explore opportunities for cooperation and have identified common objectives for research and development.

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Lunar IceCube Mission to Locate, Study Resources Needed for Sustained Presence on Moon

llustration of Lunar IceCube in orbit. (Credits: Morehead State University)

By Katherine Schauer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Greenbelt, Md. — As we venture forward to the Moon and establish a sustained lunar presence, finding and understanding water on the lunar surface becomes increasingly important. Lunar water is largely in the form of, but not necessarily limited to, water ice. Astronauts on the Moon could use this ice for various crew needs, potentially including rocket fuel.

The Lunar IceCube mission, led by Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, will study water distribution and interaction on the Moon. The mission will carry a NASA instrument called Broadband InfraRed Compact High-Resolution Exploration Spectrometer (BIRCHES) to investigate the distribution of water and other organic volatiles. NASA scientists will use this data to understand where the water is on the Moon, its origins and how we can use it.

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Luxembourg to Establish Space Resources Innovation Center

  • Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy Etienne Schneider and ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner commit to strengthening international collaboration in the field of space resources research and innovation, during a visit to the European Astronaut Centre, in Cologne.
  • Europe must be an active player and create opportunities to position itself as key partner in the next space resources related activities and missions.
  • European Space Agency and the Luxembourg Space Agency have, together, identified common objectives for research and development.

LUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg Space Agency PR) — Following the setup of SpaceResources.lu initiative in 2016 to promote and develop the research, economic and legal aspects of space resources, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) established a working group to explore the opportunities for international cooperation in the field of space resources.

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Extracting Oxygen and Metal from Lunar Regolith

Simulated lunar regolith before and after all the oxygen has been extracted from it. (Credit: Beth Lomax – University of Glasgow)

GLASGOW, Scotland (ESA PR) — On the left side of this before and after image is a pile of simulated lunar soil, or regolith; on the right is the same pile after essentially all the oxygen has been extracted from it, leaving a mixture of metal alloys. Both the oxygen and metal could be used in future by settlers on the Moon.

Samples returned from the lunar surface confirm that lunar regolith is made up of 40-45% percent oxygen by weight, its single most abundant element.

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NASA Announces New Tipping Point Partnerships for Moon and Mars Technologies

Astrobotic is one of 14 companies selected for NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. This illustration depicts CubeRover, an ultra-light, modular and scalable commercial rover.(Credit: Astrobotic/Carnegie Mellon University)

Astrobotic, Blue Origin, ExoTerra, Paragon and SpaceX among contract awardees for advanced technologies

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 American companies as partners whose technologies will help enable the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The selections are based on NASA’s fourth competitive Tipping Point solicitation and have a combined total award value of about $43.2 million. This investment in the U.S. space industry, including small businesses across the country, will help bring the technologies to market and ready them for use by NASA.

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