Sierra Space Completes Successful NASA Test Readiness Review for Lunar Oxygen Extraction System

Sierra Space ‘Clear to Proceed’ with Physical Testing of Integrated Reactor That Extracts Oxygen from Moon’s Surface

Innovative Technology is Critical for Astronaut Life Support Systems and Propellant Manufacturing in Space

Sierra Space’s processed melt extraction mechanism, or “lunar rake,” removes melted slag from the processing area after lunar material is processed and cooled. (Image Credit: Sierra Space)

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (Sierra Space PR)Sierra Space, a leading commercial space company at the forefront of creating and building the future of space transportation and infrastructure for low-Earth orbit (LEO) commercialization, today announced the successful completion of its $3 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase III Test Readiness Review (TRR) with NASA for its carbothermal reduction technology.

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NASA Funds R&D Projects for Lunar Construction Technology

Astronaut working on the moon (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

As NASA prepares to send astronauts back to the moon, the spaced agency is funding a series of research and development (R&D) projects focused on turning lunar regolith into landing pads, blast shields and other useful structures.

NASA recently selected four R&D projects for funding under its Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)  program. The projects, which partner small businesses with academia, will each receive up to $150,000 apiece for studies lasting 13 months.

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A First: Scientists Grow Plants in Soil from the Moon

Arabidopsis plants 6 days after the seeds were planted. The four wells on the left contain plants growing in JSC-1A lunar soil simulant. The three wells on the right contain plants growing in lunar soils collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions. (Image Credit: UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (University of Florida Media Relations) — Scientists have grown plants in soil from the moon, a first in human history and a milestone in lunar and space exploration.

In a new paper published in the journal “Communications Biology,” University of Florida researchers showed that plants can successfully sprout and grow in lunar soil. Their study also investigated how plants respond biologically to the moon’s soil, also known as lunar regolith, which is radically different from soil found on Earth.

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New UK Space Funds to Pioneer New Approaches to Energy, Communication and Resources

British space technology will help pioneer new approaches to energy, communications and resources, thanks to new projects from the UK Space Agency

LONDON (UK Space Agency PR) — Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman announced the £2 million boost for 13 new projects during British Science Week (11-20 March), which aims to inspire interest in and celebrate science, engineering, technology and maths for people of all ages.

The projects include Rolls-Royce developing a power station for space that could power the generation of water, breathable oxygen and fuels for solar exploration.

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Team Chosen to Make First Oxygen on the Moon

The European Large Logistic Lander touches down on the moon. (Credit: ESA/ATG-Medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Following a competition, ESA has selected the industrial team that will design and build the first experimental payload to extract oxygen from the surface of the Moon. The winning consortium, led by Thales Alenia Space in the UK, has been tasked with producing a small piece of equipment that will evaluate the prospect of building larger lunar plants to extract propellant for spacecraft and breathable air for astronauts – as well as metallic raw materials for equipment.

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Five Space Station Research Results Contributing to Deep Space Exploration

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst works on the MICS experiment aboard the International Space Station. Observations of how cement reacts in space during the hardening process may help engineers better understand its microstructure and material properties, which could improve cement processing techniques on Earth and lead to the design of safe, lightweight space habitats. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — More than 3,000 experiments have been conducted aboard the  International Space Station during the 21 years humans have been living and working in space. These experiments have provided insights helping improve life back on Earth and explore farther into the solar system. Researchers have shared these results in thousands of scientific publications.

Over the past few months, scientists shared the outcomes of space station studies that could help us recover more water from life support systems, construct Moon bases, grow plants in space, and more.

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Building Lunar Landing Pads Using Regolith

Graphic depiction of Regolith Adaptive Modification System (RAMs) (Credits: Sarbajit Banerjee)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase I Award
Funding: up to $125,000
Study Period: 9 months

Regolith Adaptive Modification System (RAMs) to Support Early Extraterrestrial Planetary Landings (and Operations)
Sarbajit Banerjee
Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station
College Station, Texas

The “Regolith Adaptive Modification system (RAMs)” was conceived for selective reinforcement and fusing of native Lunar surface materials. The current concept was evolved from a previous NASA NIAC proposal focused on flexible lightweight landing platforms.

Much of the current Lunar regolith modification research is focused on using technologies that require significant presence and infrastructure for success, such as sintering and geo-polymerization. In contrast, the RAMs system is uniquely suited for supporting deployment during early landings, but can also be used for more mature construction activities after establishment of Lunar and Martian settlements.

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British Engineers Work to Turn Moon Dust into Oxygen

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

GLASGOW (ESA PR) — British engineers are fine-tuning a process that will be used to extract oxygen from lunar dust, leaving behind metal powders that could be 3D printed into construction materials for a Moon base.

It could be an early step to establishing an extra-terrestrial oxygen extraction plant. This would help to enable exploration and sustain life on the Moon while avoiding the enormous cost of sending materials from Earth.

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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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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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