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: SpaceX will try again Fri. to launch station cargo (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

2 hours ago

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

Image: Rosetta's Philae lander snaps a selfie

3 hours ago

Philae is awake… and taking pictures! This image, acquired last night with the lander's CIVA (Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer) instrument, shows the left and right solar panels of ESA's well-traveled ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...