Carbothermal Lunar Regolith Processing System (CLRPS)

Period of Performance: 01/01/2003 - 12/31/2003

$70K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Orbital Technologies Corp.(orbitec)
Space Center, 1212 Fourier Drive
Madison, WI 53717
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Abstract

ORBITEC proposes to develop an integrated carbothermal lunar regolith processing system (CLRPS) to produce oxygen and a variety of other useful materials to support future lunar exploration activities. The CLRPS utilizes carbothermal reduction of regolith via a direct energy source to extract oxygen, silicon, iron, ceramics, and other useful by-products from lunar regolith. The CLRPS products would be used for life support, propellant applications, solar cells (Si), electric wire or metal parts (Fe) and other infrastructure development (e.g. ceramics/bricks, fibers for composites, etc.). The CLRPS concept eliminates many of the problems found with other lunar oxygen production approaches, such as the continuous need for high-temperature containers from Earth, reagents that are consumed during processing, and extensive beneficiation of the lunar regolith prior to processing. The CLRPS would be designed to operate virtually anywhere on the surface of the Moon and the technology could be extended for use on Mars or various asteroids. Phase I will involve prototype design and testing, research and design of the support systems, and investigation of available direct energy heating sources. Phase II will involve design, development, and testing of a closed-loop prototype CLRPS unit.