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In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU)

In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU)
« on: 07 August , 2019, 12:45:10 pm »
Hello everyone!

As I see little activity in this Space Science Blog, let me start a new topic so that you can start discussing about something. The topic will be In-Situ Resource Utilisation, or just ISRU, and by now I'm pretty sure you know something about it. In a nutshell, ISRU involves the use and manipulation of extraterrestrial resources in the very astronomical object where they were obtained. So, for example, if some mineral is obtained in the Moon, use it, transform it, or whatever, in the Moon, without the need for bringing it back to Earth. However, ISRU expands way beyond this. Incredible things can be done with this technology.

My suggestion is that you answer to this topic with information about ISRU that deals with:
  • The technology to be used
  • The machines that can be used to do it
  • The materials, chemicals or other resources that can be obtained and what they could be used for
  • The astronomical body where it could be done
  • Any other idea that you may come up with

I'm sure you have already found information about it and I thus suggest that you share it as an answer to this post or even as a new topic. This way, other participants may learn things they didn't new and you will also learn from the information that other fellow participants will share. Trust me, you will see how useful and enriching this forum can be!

Kind regards ;)
VET-ES-Pablo

Re: In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU)
« Reply #1 on: 25 August , 2019, 21:53:01 pm »
Hello everybody!

It seems really interesting to me to start a new topic related to ISRU as, in my view, it is a key technique in the search for extraterrestrial resources for the following reason: as human space exploration goes further, it will become more and more important to generate life-sustaining elements (food, air, water, rocket propellants, spare parts for the spaceship, building materials…) in-situ because of the fact that resupply missions from Earth are incredibly expensive and inefficient as the resources need to be lifted from the Earth's gravity (while using ISRU don´t). In other words, it is far more viable, practical and affordable using space resources in-situ to sustain the crew and for space propulsion and power systems rather than carrying everything that is thought to be needed in the mission from Earth.

Such is the potential which the space industries have seen in In-Situ Resource Utilisation that an increasingly big number of ISRU projects are being developed nowadays. I will continue doing research into these projects and share with you what I learn!

Kind regards,

Ruth Mora

Re: In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) in Mars
« Reply #2 on: 27 August , 2019, 00:20:47 am »
Hello everybody,

I am writing in order to share with you different methods through which Earth-return propellant and life support consumables could be produced using ISRU in Mars.

A vital resource for both the astronauts and the combustion in the rocket engine is oxygen, which could be obtained through a solid oxide electrolysis* using the abundant CO2 of the martian atmosphere.

On the other hand, not only oxygen (oxidizer)  is need to create a propellant combination for the rocket engine but also a fuel. One possible propellant combination (mixture of oxidizer and fuel) consists of gaseous oxygen (O2) and gaseous methane (CH4). The methane could be obtained through a Sabatier reaction* using the CO2 from the martian atmosphere and dihydrogen (obtained through water electrolysis).

This is a quick summary of one possible way of using the martian CO2 to obtain oxygen for human consumption and propellant, which demonstrates how useful ISRU is.

Here is the link to the full article where all these systems and reactions are explained in detail:

https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/1.3480?journalCode=jpp

Kind regards,

Ruth Mora

* solid oxide electrolysis: CO2 → 2CO + O​2
* Sabatier reaction: CO2 + 4H2 → CH4 + 2H2O

Re: In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU): MOXIE
« Reply #3 on: 27 August , 2019, 12:14:47 pm »
Hello everybody,

In my last post, I introduced the term “solid oxide electrolysis” for the generation of O2 in Mars and, while researching more about it, i found MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), an experiment developed by NASA and MIT aimed to provide oxygen for propellant and for human breathing to the Mars 2020 mission through this reaction of the martian CO2.

In case you are interested in going in depth in MOXIE project, I leave here a few resources about it, including an incredibly interesting convention by Dr Michael Hecht (principal investigator of MOXIE):

Dr Michael Hecht - MOXIE - 19th Annual International Mars Society Convention: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB74D7VrQSI

Interesting piece of Dr Michael Hecht´s convention which transmits the basic idea of MOXIE:
"When we send humans to Mars, we will want them to return safely, and to do that they need a rocket to lift off the planet. Liquid oxygen propellant is something we could make there and not have to bring with us. One idea would be to bring an empty oxygen tank and fill it up on Mars."
 
Other resources:
https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/instruments/moxie/for-scientists/
https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/instruments/moxie/

All the best,

Ruth Mora