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Companies compete on payload to make air from moondust

Written by  Thursday, 29 July 2021 09:18
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Oxygen and metal from lunar regolith

ESA is challenging companies in its Member States to design a compact plant to demonstrate the manufacture of oxygen on the Moon. Industrial teams are competing this summer to propose and prove designs through testing, with the winner set to be declared in September. This small piece of technology will evaluate the prospect of building larger plants to produce propellant for spacecraft, air for astronauts and metallic raw materials for equipment.

Earth seen from the Moon
Earth seen from the Moon

“We make high demands of our industrial companies”, says David Binns, Systems Engineer at ESA's Concurrent Design Facility. “We need a system which is small, doesn’t consume too much power and could fly on a number of different landers. It also needs to be available in the middle of this decade. With both ESA and NASA planning to return to the Moon with crewed missions, this time to stay, this technology needs to be ready.”

Giorgio Magistrati, Studies and Technologies Team Leader at ESA's ExPeRT (Exploration Preparation, Research and Technology) initative adds: “The system will represent the first step – a so called ‘demonstrator’ – in an In-Situ Resource Utilisation implementation strategy that foresees an ISRU plant in the early part of the next decade. It could potentially be deployed on the Moon's surface by the European Large Logistic Lander, EL3, a project currently in its preliminary design phase.”

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