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Thermal Energy for Lunar In Situ Resource Utilization: Technical Challenges and Technology OpportunitiesOxygen production from lunar raw materials is critical for sustaining a manned lunar base but is very power intensive. Solar concentrators are a well-developed technology for harnessing the Sun s energy to heat regolith to high temperatures (over 1375 K). The high temperature and potential material incompatibilities present numerous technical challenges. This study compares and contrasts different solar concentrator designs that have been developed, such as Cassegrains, offset parabolas, compound parabolic concentrators, and secondary concentrators. Differences between concentrators made from lenses and mirrors, and between rigid and flexible concentrators are also discussed. Possible substrate elements for a rigid mirror concentrator are selected and then compared, using the following (target) criteria: (low) coefficient of thermal expansion, (high) modulus of elasticity, and (low) density. Several potential lunar locations for solar concentrators are compared; environmental and processing-related challenges related to dust and optical surfaces are addressed. This brief technology survey examines various sources of thermal energy that can be utilized for materials processing on the lunar surface. These include heat from nuclear or electric sources and solar concentrators. Options for collecting and transporting thermal energy to processing reactors for each source are examined. Overall system requirements for each thermal source are compared and system limitations, such as maximum achievable temperature are discussed.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Gordon, Pierce E. C. (Michigan Univ. Ann Arbor, MI, United States)
Colozza, Anthony J. (QinetiQ North America Cleveland, OH, United States)
Hepp, Aloysius F. (NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Heller, Richard S. (Massachusetts Inst. of Tech. Cambridge, MA, United States)
Gustafson, Robert (Orbital Technologies Corp. Middleton, WI, United States)
Stern, Ted (DR Technologies, Inc. San Diego, CA, United States)
Nakamura, Takashi (Physical Sciences, Inc. Pleasanton, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
October 1, 2011
Subject Category
Report/Patent Number
AIAA Paper 2011-704
Meeting Information
49th Aerospace Sciences Meeting including the New Horizons Forum and Aerospace Exposition(Orlando, FL)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 387498.
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

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