O2 - Prairie View 2/23/96 Progress Report

Date: Wed, 28 Feb 1996
From: Donald Tucker dtucker@pvcea.cea.pvamu.edu

1.0 Problem Identification

The primary objective of this project is to carry out an O2 production experiment on the lunar surface of the Moon. This will consist of constructing a prototype necessary to carry out the O2 extraction process, comparing different processes of O2 extraction, and choosing the best lunar location possible which will be based on the oxygen concentration in the lunar soil.

2.0 Purpose of O2 Production Experiment

The proposed success of the lunar O2 extraction experiment may benefit Earth with several attributes. Some of these may include:

(1) Enabling the establishment of a lunar base on the Moon which would, in turn, require a perpetual supply of oxygen.
(2) Further advancing Earth's space exploration capabilities.
(3) Providing opportunities to further explore the characteristics and content of the Moon's surface.
(4) Allowing the opportunity to perform remote sensing of lunar polar regions from low lunar orbit in hopes of detecting water.

3.0 Methods of O2 Extraction Process

Lunar soil samples from the Moon will be transported to the O2 extracting device by a rover and deposited by a robotic arm. At this point, the extraction process will begin. There are about 16 different methods of O2 extraction. Of these, the ilmenite (or FeTiO3) reduction has been proposed to be the best by reacting the sample with either carbon or hydrogen. The reactions are as follows:

Hydrogen: FeTiO3 + H2 > Fe + TiO2 + H2O
H20 > H2 + 1/2 O2

Carbon: FeTiO3 + C > Fe + TiO2 + CO
CO > C + 1/2 O2

The reaction process most likely to be used will be the hydrogen reaction because more information is available on hydrogen. One of the reactants of this chemical reaction is water. The oxygen itself from the H2O will then be removed by way of electrolysis.

4.0 Preliminary Design Approach

At this point in time, the overall format of design is strictly conceptual. The production plant will be small in size (weight approx. 20kg or less) and be able to separate and utilize the smaller soil samples. It will also consist of the following components:

(1) sample bin
(2) shaker and scale
(3) reaction crucible
(4) condensor
(5) hydrogen tank
(6) water tank
(7) electrolysis device
(8) oxygen tank
(9) mass spectrometer
(10) parabolic reflector
*note: (see figure for details)

5.0 Requirements and Limitations

There are certain limitations and requirements that must be met when designing the O2 production device. For starters, the device itself can be at most 20kg. It must be considered that there is an overall limitation on the mass of the entire lunar spacecraft. Therefore, it is crucial that the mass limit on the extraction device is not exceeded. It should also be noted that the lunar landing spot is very important in the production of oxygen. There are certain areas of the Moon that have high concentrations of oxygen and these are the areas that should be targeted. The samples taken from these regions must be small in size while flat and smooth in dimension.

This characteristic will promote the best reaction possible. Another important issue to be considered is the length of the lunar day and night as well as the respective temperatures of each. The reaction process will only be operational during the day when the necessary solar power can be obtained to carry out the reaction.

The device itself, including the reactants, will have to be able to survive lunar days and nights. Finally, the amount of heat and the type of reactants left over from the reaction should be taken into account. This will help define the parameters of the device itself as well as the various types of materials that may be used.

Next: For the upcoming week, our goals are to obtain and utilize the JSC contact concerning the lunar soil, composition & Spectrographic map in order to pinpoint the exact location of the landing site. We also plan to utilize our resources to expound upon the O2 extraction process. Finally, we plan to consider the material parameters.