Researchers from three companies presented a method for mining water ice on the moon. To do this, they will use a rocket engine.
Three companies – Masten Space Systems, Lunar Outpost and Honeybee Robotics – are developing a new system that will use rockets to mine water ice on the Moon.
It is believed that water ice exists in the polar regions of the Moon, especially in the permanently shaded areas of some craters. Extraction of this resource is critical to ensuring the continued presence of humans on Earth’s satellite, according to NASA officials and proponents of lunar exploration. For example, water ice can be broken down into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen, the main components of rocket fuel.
To spur the development of mining technologies on the Moon, NASA organized a competition called Break the Ice Lunar Challenge. In the course of it, the most promising concepts of resource extraction will be allocated up to 500 thousand dollars. The winners will be announced on 13 August.
The Masten-Lunar Outpost-Honeybee Robotics team unveiled a rocket motor attached to a rover weighing 818 kilograms. When the rover reaches a suitable ice-covered location, the domed motor will turn around and start, collecting the moon’s dirt and gravel into a vacuum device that will separate and store the water ice particles.
“The system is projected to be able to develop up to 12 craters per day and produce about 100 kg of ice per crater,” Masten wrote in the project description. “This will allow us to extract more than 420 thousand kg of lunar water per year!”
The ice can be used to fuel rockets, allowing the devices to work on the surface for more than five years. If NASA funds the Rocket Mining System, it will go to Earth satellite with a Masten device. The company’s first flight to the lunar surface using the XL-1 lunar vehicle is scheduled for 2023.