NASA Logo

NTRS

NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Costs and benefits of lunar oxygen: Engineering, operations, and economicsOxygen is the most commonly discussed lunar resource. It will certainly not be the easiest to retrieve, but oxygen's fundamental place in propulsion and life support guarantees it continued attention as a prime candidate for early in situ resource utilization (ISRU). The findings are reviewed of recent investigation, sponsored by NASA-Ames, into the kinds of technologies, equipment, and scenarios (the engineering and operations costs) that will be required even to initiate lunar oxygen production. The infrastructure necessary to surround and support a viable oxygen-processing operation is explained. Selected details are used to illustrate the depth of technology challenges, extent of operations burdens, and complexity of decision linkages. Basic assumptions, and resulting timelines and mass manifests, are listed. These findings are combined with state-of-the-art knowledge of lunar and Mars propulsion options in simple economic input/output and internal-rate-of-return models, to compare production costs with performance benefits. Implications for three realistic scales of exploration architecture - expeditionary, aggressive science, and industrialization/settlement - are discussed. Conclusions are reached regarding the contextual conditions within which production of lunar oxygen (LLOX) is a reasonable activity. LLOX appears less useful for Mars missions than previously hoped. Its economical use in low Earth orbit hinges on production of lunar hydrogen as well. LLOX shows promise for lunar ascent/descent use, but that depends strongly on the plant mass required.
Document ID
19910016737
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Sherwood, Brent (Boeing Aerospace Co. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Woodcock, Gordon R. (Boeing Aerospace Co. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1991
Publication Information
Publication: Arizona Univ., Resources of Near-Earth Space: Abstracts
Subject Category
LUNAR AND PLANETARY EXPLORATION
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

Related Records

IDRelationTitle19910016705Analytic PrimaryResources of Near-Earth Space: Abstracts