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Processing lunar soils for oxygen and other materialsTwo types of lunar materials are excellent candidates for lunar oxygen production: ilmenite and silicates such as anorthite. Both are lunar surface minable, occurring in soils, breccias, and basalts. Because silicates are considerably more abundant than ilmenite, they may be preferred as source materials. Depending on the processing method chosen for oxygen production and the feedstock material, various useful metals and bulk materials can be produced as byproducts. Available processing techniques include hydrogen reduction of ilmenite and electrochemical and chemical reductions of silicates. Processes in these categories are generally in preliminary development stages and need significant research and development support to carry them to practical deployment, particularly as a lunar-based operation. The goal of beginning lunar processing operations by 2010 requires that planning and research and development emphasize the simplest processing schemes. However, more complex schemes that now appear to present difficult technical challenges may offer more valuable metal byproducts later. While they require more time and effort to perfect, the more complex or difficult schemes may provide important processing and product improvements with which to extend and elaborate the initial lunar processing facilities. A balanced R&D program should take this into account. The following topics are discussed: (1) ilmenite--semi-continuous process; (2) ilmenite--continuous fluid-bed reduction; (3) utilization of spent ilmenite to produce bulk materials; (4) silicates--electrochemical reduction; and (5) silicates--chemical reduction.
Document ID
Document Type
Knudsen, Christian W.
(Carbotek, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Gibson, Michael A.
(Carbotek, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1992
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Johnson Space Center, Space Resources. Volume 3: Materials
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Exploration
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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