NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Oxygen Extraction from MineralsOxygen, whether used as part of rocket bipropellant or for astronaut life support, is a key consumable for space exploration and commercialization. In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) has been proposed many times as a method for making space exploration more cost effective and sustainable. On planetary and asteroid surfaces the presence of minerals in the regolith that contain oxygen is very common, making them a potential oxygen resource. The majority of research and development for oxygen extraction from minerals has been for lunar regolith although this work would generally be applicable to regolith at other locations in space. This presentation will briefly survey the major methods investigated for oxygen extraction from regolith with a focus on the current status of those methods and possible future development pathways. The major oxygen production methods are (1) extraction from lunar ilmenite (FeTiO3) with either hydrogen or carbon monoxide, (2) carbothermal reduction of iron oxides and silicates with methane, and (3) molten regolith electrolysis (MRE) of silicates. Methods (1) and (2) have also been investigated in a two-step process using CO reduction and carbon deposition followed by carbothermal reduction. All three processes have byproducts that could also be used as resources. Hydrogen or carbon monoxide reduction produce iron metal in small amounts that could potentially be used as construction material. Carbothermal reduction also makes iron metal along with silicon metal and a glass with possible applications. MRE produces iron, silicon, aluminum, titanium, and glass, with higher silicon yields than carbothermal reduction. On Mars and possibly on some moons and asteroids, water is present in the form of mineral hydrates, hydroxyl (-OH) groups on minerals, andor water adsorbed on mineral surfaces. Heating of the minerals can liberate the water which can be electrolyzed to provide a source of oxygen as well. The chemistry of these processes, some key development and demonstration projects, the challenges remaining to be overcome, and possible future directions will be discussed with a goal of increased understanding of these important ISRU technologies and their potential applications to space exploration and settlement.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Kennedy Space Center
Document Type
Muscatello, Tony
(NASA Kennedy Space Center Cocoa Beach, FL United States)
Date Acquired
February 8, 2017
Publication Date
February 6, 2017
Subject Category
Energy Production And Conversion
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Meeting: The Technology and Future of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)
Location: Orlando, FL
Country: United States
Start Date: February 6, 2017
Sponsors: Florida Space Inst.
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 460421.04.06.04
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
propellant production
oxygen production and recovery
in situ resource utilization
hydrocarbon fuel production
No Preview Available