With an aim to extract oxygen from the surface of the moon, the European Space Agency (ESA) has selected a team to design and build the first experimental payload needed for the task. According to the space agency, the team was selected following a competition. A team, led by Thales Alenia Space in the UK, has been now tasked with producing a small piece of equipment. The equipment will help evaluate the prospect of setting up larger plants on the moon for extracting propellant for spacecraft and air for astronauts. The winning consortium comprises Metalysis, AVS, Redwire Space Europe and Open University. Taking a new approach to selecting concepts, a detailed study was carried out and three rival designs were also evaluated before the selection of the team.
Explaining the new selection approach, Systems Engineer from ESA’s state-of-the-art Concurrent Design Facility (CDF), David Binns said that “employing a challenge approach let us evaluate the competing payload concepts on a precise, side-by-side basis.”
Binns further provided the details about the payload and said that it needs to be low power, compact and with an ability to fly “on a range of potential landers” which includes ESA’s European Large Logistics Lander, EL3. Binns highlighted that the equipment will allow the extraction of oxygen from the moonrock along with other useable metals. He claimed that it will prove to be a “game changer for lunar exploration.” Binns said that with this technology, the international explorers will no longer need to depend on expensive terrestrial supply lines and will be able to “live off the land”.
The payload will be responsible for extracting 50-100 grams of oxygen from the lunar regolith which is 70% off all the available oxygen within the sample. Within a 10-day period, it will provide crucial information and precise measurements about performance and gas connections. The payload will be functioning on solar power available for the fortnight-long lunar period before conditions get pitch-black and freezing during the lunar night.
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