The Feasibility of Processes for the Production of Oxygen on the Moon

by Lawrence A. Taylor, Univ of Tennessee, Knoxville, United States,
W. David Carrier, III, Univ of Tennessee, Knoxville, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space III


Twenty different processes for the production of oxygen on the Moon have been proposed. An evaluation of their perceived feasibility is presented. The lunar liquid oxygen (LLOX) production schemes which have received the most study to date are those involving: 1) the reduction of ilmenite (FeTiO3) by H2, C, CO, CH4, CO-Cl2, & Cl2 plasma, 2) molten silicate electrolysis, both unadulterated and fluoride-fluxed, and 3) several others, including hydrogen reduction of glass, carbochlorination, HF acid leaching, fluorine extraction, magma oxidation, and vapor pyrolysis. Most processes are relatively untested in large-scale and/or extremely complicated and difficult to implement. Simplicity is the keyword for the process which will ultimately be selected. Energy requirements are obviously paramount, but the overall simplicity of the process is probably of equal importance. This includes not only the number, complexity, and efficiency of steps in the entire process, but also the feedstock requirements and costs of 'importing' expendable reactants. There is a very real need for design, effective experimentation, and engineering evaluation of each of these LLOX processes.

Subject Headings: Moon | Feasibility studies | Aerospace engineering | Glass | Acids | Leaching | Heat treatment | Space exploration

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