NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
separation and conditioning of mars atmospheric gases via tsaSpace and planetary exploration almost always presents interesting and unusual engineering challenges. Separations engineering for chemical processes that are critical to humans working in space is no exception. The challenges are becoming clearer as we make the transition from concepts and planning to hardware development, and as we understand better the constraints and environments in which the processes must perform. The coming decade will see a robotic Mars exploration program that has recovered from recent setbacks and is building a knowledge and technology base for human exploration. One of the missions will carry a small chemical pilot plant for demonstrating the manufacture of rocket propellants and life support consumables from the low-pressure (0.01 atm) Martian atmosphere. By manufacturing and storing the fuel and consumables needed for human-return missions in situ, launch mass and landed mass are reduced by tons and missions become far less expensive. The front-end to the pilot plant is a solid-state atmosphere acquisition and separation unit based on temperature-swing adsorption (TSA). The unit produces purified and pressurized (to 1.0 atm) carbon dioxide to downstream reactors that will make methane and oxygen. The unit also produces a nitrogen-argon mixture as a valuable by-product for life support, inflatable structures, and propellant pressurization. With nighttime temperatures falling to -100 degrees C, power availability restricted to a few watts, and flawless operation critical to success, the dusty Martian surface is a difficult place to operate a remote plant. This talk will focus on how this TSA separation process is designed and implemented for this application, and how it might be used in the more distant future for human exploration.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Finn, John E.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Luna, Bernadette
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2000
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Meeting Information
AIChE Conference(Los Angeles, CA)
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 131-20-10
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.