Lunar oxygen project begins

Jun 08, 2005

Florida Tech is collaborating with British Titanium, Cambridge University and the Kennedy Space Center on a NASA-funded project to produce oxygen from the Moon's regolith (top soil covering solid rock).
The goal of the study ultimately is to produce oxygen on the moon using the FFC Cambridge process, which uses electrochemical reduction of metal oxides in a molten salt electrolyte. Liquid oxygen is by far the largest component of rocket fuel, forming as much as 85 percent by weight. Its production on the moon would enable rockets to re-fuel on their way to far-flung corners of the earth's solar system.

The total budget for phase 1 of the project, titled, "ILMENOX," is $1.8 million with British Titanium serving as the primary contractor on the award. Initial phase 1 financial support to Florida Tech is $430,000.

Project director is Dr. Derek Fray. He is a co-inventor of the FFC Cambridge titanium electrolytic production process, head of the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the U.K.'s University of Cambridge and chief science officer for British Titanium. Florida Tech's Dr. Jonathan Whitlow, associate professor of chemical engineering, is Florida Tech's principal investigator on the project. Since 1998 he has conducted research with NASA support on In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) from resources on the moon and in the Martian atmosphere.

"Locally produced oxygen for rocket propulsion promises by far the greatest cost and mass savings. It is crucial to achieving a sustained and affordable human robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond," said Whitlow.

The FFC process will possibly produce lower cost metals on earth, most notably titanium. According to Whitlow, "The use of this technology on the moon for ISRU is promising because it has the potential to extract virtually all of the oxygen from the lunar regolith at temperatures lower than competing processes, which have less extraction efficiencies."

Manned space missions received presidential support in Jan. 2004 when George W. Bush announced plans to send an expedition to the moon by 2015.

Source: Florida Institute of Technology

Explore further: Russian cosmonaut sets record for most time in space

Related Stories

How life could have produced most minerals on Earth

Apr 30, 2014

While astronomers are trying to figure out which planets they find are habitable, there are a range of things to consider. How close are they to their parent star? What are their atmospheres made of? And ...

This rover could hunt for lunar water and oxygen in 2018

Nov 29, 2013

In 2018, NASA plans to go prospecting at the moon's south pole with a rover—possibly, a version of the Canadian one in the picture above. The idea is to look for water and similar substances on the lunar ...

Electrolysis method described for making 'green' iron

May 08, 2013

Anyone who has seen pictures of the giant, red-hot cauldrons in which steel is made—fed by vast amounts of carbon, and belching flame and smoke—would not be surprised to learn that steelmaking is one of the world's leading ...

Recommended for you

Russian cosmonaut sets record for most time in space

14 minutes ago

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who is the current commander of the International Space Station, has set a new record for most time spent in space, with a total of 803 days, Russian space agency said Tuesday.

Up, up and away, in the name of science education

17 hours ago

US researchers extol the virtues of high-altitude balloons for science education in a research paper published in the International Journal of Learning Technology. According to Jeremy Straub of the University of North Dakota ...

New plan proposed to send humans to Mars

17 hours ago

A new, cost-constrained U.S. strategy to send humans on Mars, could be achieved within projected NASA budgets by minimizing new developments and relying mainly on already available or planned NASA assets. ...

'Cause unknown' in SpaceX rocket blast

20 hours ago

SpaceX came up empty Monday in its search to figure out why an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket exploded minutes after blasting off from a NASA launchpad with a load of space-bound cargo.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.