Carbothermal Reduction of Lunar Materials for Oxygen Production on the Moon: Reduction of Lunar Simulants with Methane
The utilization of extraterrestrial resources will become a key element in space exploration and colonization of the Moon and Mars in the 21st century. Indeed, the development and operation of in-situ manufacturing plants are required to enable the establishment of permanent lunar and Martian bases. Oxygen manufacture for life support and propulsion will be the most important manufacturing process for the first of these plants. The Carbothermal Reduction Process for the manufacture of oxygen from lunar materials has three essential steps: the reduction of ferrous oxide and metallic silicates with methane to form carbon monoxide and hydrogen; the reduction of carbon monoxide with hydrogen to form methane and water; and the electrolysis of water to form oxygen and hydrogen. This closed cyclic process does not depend upon the presence of water or water precursors in the lunar materials. It produces oxygen from silicates regardless of their precise composition and fine structure. In accord with the Statement of Work of Contract NAS 9-19080, Carbothermal Reduction of Lunar Materials for Oxygen Production on the Moon, ORBITEC has placed emphasis on the following issues to gain a better understanding of the Carbothermal Reduction Reaction of lunar regolith and to develop a low-risk, light-weight design for a lunar lander experiment: (1) highly efficient, i.e., greater than 95%, reduction of the lunar simulants with methane; (2) determination of conditions, particularly temperatures, required for initial and complete reduction of the lunar simulants; (3) identification of the products formed, gases and solids; (4) determination of solid product properties; (5) determination of reaction rates and mechanisms; and (6) demonstration of container materials. The most important of these issues were: (1) efficient reduction of the lunar simulants, i.e., JSC-1 and MLS-1A, with methane; (2) identification of the products formed , i.e., carbon monoxide, metals, e.g., iron and silicon, and slags, e.g., complex silicates; and (3) delivery of methane to the surface of the molten simulants without premature pyrolysis of the methane. The results of this empirical research are reported in this paper.
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
- Pub Date:
- March 1996
- CARBOTHERMAL REDUCTION;
- JSC-1 AND MLS-1A;
- SIMULANTS: LUNAR