Projects

The Center for Space Resources conducts a variety of projects with space agencies and private companies, and participates in competitions and challenges to advance all aspects of the field of space resources.  These projects cover the entire Technology Readiness Level (TRL) spectrum, from early design concepts to space missions, as well as economic analyses and legal and public policy studies.  Among them are the following:

Sample Acquisition, Morphology, Filtering, and Probing of Lunar Regolith  (SAMPLR)

Investigator: Christopher Dreyer
Partners: Maxar, Masten Space Systems
Funding: NASA LSITP and CLPS
Launch Date to Moon: December 2022

Payload onboard Masten Space Systems lunar lander with a robotic arm to explore the lunar surface by acquiring samples and determining the geotechnical properties of lunar regolith.

Moon to Mars Oxygen and Steel Technology (MMOST)

Investigator:  Angel Abbud-Madrid
Partners:  Pioneer Astronautics, Honeybee Robotics
Funding:  NASA SBIR Phase II Sequential program

Objective: Integrated system to produce metallic iron/steel and oxygen from beneficiated lunar regolith.  The system employs particle size sorting/de-dusting, magnetic-electrostatic beneficiation, materials handling, iron oxide reduction, electrolysis, and melt-refining.  Iron product to be alloyed as required for demonstration of additive manufacturing, machining, and casting applications.

Thermal Processing of Lunar Ice and Solid Oxide Electrolysis for Liquid H2 & O2 Production

Investigator:  Gregory Jackson
Partners:  OxEon Energy
Funding:  NASA Tipping Point program

Integration of high-temperature solid-oxide electrolysis (SOXE) stack technology with a balance-of-plant system to process recovered lunar ice and separate product H2 and O2 to be cooled into liquid propellants for LH2/LOX-fueled cislunar transport.

 

Lunar Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO): A Breakthrough for Lunar Exploration & Industry

Investigator:  Kevin Cannon
Partners:  TransAstra Corporation
Funding:  NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase II
Study of a lunar polar mining outpost based on extracting polar volatiles in lunar cold traps using microwave radiation

 

NASA Mars InSight Mission

Investigator:  Ebru Bozdag
Partners:  NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Funding:  NASA Discovery Program
Current status:  Operating on the surface of Mars

Investigation on the surface of Mars using the InSight seismometer to study the crustal dichotomy between the southern and northern hemispheres, the size of Mars’ core, and the relationship between that core and the planet’s lack of magnetic field. The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) measures the pulse of Mars by studying waves created by marsquakes, thumps of meteorite impacts, and even surface vibrations generated by activity in Mars’ atmosphere and by weather phenomena such as dust storms.

 

 

 

Move to Talk, Talk to Move: Tightly Integrated Communication and Controls for Coordinated Swarms of Small Spacecraft

Investigator:  Qi Han
Partners:  NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Funding:  NASA Smallsat Technology Partnerships Initiative

Development of a framework for tight integration of communication and controls as an enabling technology to effectively deploy swarms of small spacecraft. This framework makes it possible for a network of self-organizing small spacecraft to be highly collaborative among themselves for the monitoring of time-varying and/or geographically distributed phenomena. 

 

Optical Mining of Asteroids, Moons, and Planets to Enable Sustainable Human Exploration and Space Industrialization

Investigator:  Christopher Dreyer
Partners:  TransAstra Corporation
Funding:  NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase II

Extraction of volatiles from carbonaceous asteroids, lunar, and planetary material via the concentration of sunlight to induce thermal stress and spalling and collection by cryo-storage.

 

Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies

Investigator:  George Sowers
Funding:  NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC), Phase I

Concept study and preliminary tests to show how the Thermal Mining method could be applicable and profitable for developing lunar water ice resources.

 

 

 

Modeling Rover Interactions with lunar regolith in permanently shadowed regions 

Investigator:  Christopher Dreyer
Partners:   Outward Technologies, LLC
Funding:  NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Development of a Discrete Element Method (DEM) modeling framework using open-source software to simulate the combined thermal and mechanical interactions between rovers and regolith in Permanently Shadowed Regions (PSRs) at the lunar poles.

 

 

 

Institute for Modeling Plasmas, Atmospheres, and Cosmic Dust (IMPACT)

Investigator:  Angel Abbud-Madrid
Partners:  Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP)
Funding:  NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI)

Study of the formation processes and physical state of icy regolith in the lunar Permanently Shadowed Regions (PSRs) and its mechanical properties to improve the design of systems operating under this environment for ISRU and science missions.

Locating and Identifying Lunar Volatiles using heat and mass transfer

Investigator:  Christopher Dreyer
Funding:  NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities (NSTGRO)

Development of system to use heat and penetrometer data to prospect for volatiles on cold solar system bodies by determining volatile weight percentage and icy regolith structure to identify and quantify volatile species

 

 

 

 

Material Characterization while Drilling on Lunar/Martian Surface

Investigator: Jamal Rostami
Partners: Thermal Space Ltd.
Funding: NASA Early Stage Innovations (ESI)

Development of an intelligent drilling system for material characterization, based on Monitoring While Drilling (MWD) capabilities. This system is intended for surface exploration on the Moon and Mars to a shallow depth and to identify the depth of surface regolith in loose and frozen form, as well as compacted material and volcanic boulders. This technique allows for fast and efficient exploration operations where the data and measured target properties of the subsurface materials from the borings are available on real-time basis.

 

 

 

Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science (CLASS)

Investigator:  Christopher Dreyer
Partners:  University of Central Florida (UCF), TransAstra Corporation
Funding:  NASA SOLAR SYSTEM EXPLORATION RESEARCH VIRTUAL INSTITUTE (SSERVI)

Study of optical mining techniques for volatile extraction from carbonaceous asteroids

 

 

 

Performance of Autonomy and Identity for Trust- and Workload-Sensitive Interaction with Distributed Autonomous Systems

Investigator: Thomas Williams
Funding: NASA, Early Career Faculty (ECF)

Study of human and robotic elements of future crewed missions to the Moon and potential challenges facing effective communication. Investigation tests models to make human-robot interactions more efficient in a space environment.

 

 

 

Lunar Surface Construction Studies

Investigator: Christopher Dreyer
Funding: ICON, LLC

Study of a variety of lunar construction technologies

 

 

 

Terramechanics Modeling of Soil-Wheel Interactions at the Lunar Poles 

Investigator:  Christopher Dreyer
Partners:   Outward Technologies, LLC
Funding:  NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Development of terramechanics modeling software to simulate irregular agglutinate shapes in lunar soil and evaluate their interaction with wheeled rovers on the lunar surface.

 

 

 

Competitions & Challenges

Lunar In-Situ Landing/Launch Environment (LILL-E) Pad

Faculty Advisors:  George Sowers, Kevin Cannon, and Chris Dreyer
Students:  Travis Vazansky, Bailey Burns, Thao Nguyen, David Purcell, Jonathan Slavik, Miguel Coto Villanueva, Nathan Davis, and Sterling Loza
Partners:  ICON, Masten Space Systems, and Adherent Technologies
Funding:  NASA Big Idea Challenge

Project selected for the 2021 NASA BIG Idea Challenge on Dust Mitigation Technologies for Lunar Applications. The objective of the proposed work is to address landing dust prevention and mitigation on the Moon by developing a binder-regolith reinforced surface and a landing/launch pad made out of a carbon fiber fabric barrier anchored to the lunar surface.

 

 

Lunar Autonomous Scalable Emitter and Receiver (LASER) System

Faculty Advisor:  George Sowers
Students:  Ross Centers, Joshua Schertz, Loren Kezer, Curtis Purrington, Timofey Broslav, Adam Janikowski, John Schmit, Jef Hinton, and David Dickson
Partners:   University of Arizona
Funding:  NASA Big Idea Challenge

The Mines/University of Arizona student team  was selected for the 2020 NASA BIG Idea Challenge on Capabilities to Study Dark Regions on the Moon. The final report provided a minimum viable demonstration of wireless power transmission for flight on a NASA CLPS lunar lander.  The project was given the 2020 Collaboration Award in the awards ceremony.