Melting Ice under Martian and other Environmental Conditions for ISRU

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Conference Proceeding

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Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Going to Mars and exploring space in a sustainable and affordable manner will require using the local resources. In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) will increase capability, reduce complexity and reduce risk. While MOXIE is testing extraction of oxygen from Mars’ atmosphere, other technologies are being explored to extract water for consumables and rocket propellant production. NASA’s estimated water requirement is 16 metric tons in 480 sols to fully refuel a Mars Ascent Vehicle before humans would leave from Earth to travel to Mars. Several sources of water exist on Mars. Mars has large quantities of hydrated minerals and besides polar ice caps, large amounts of near-surface ice have been detected on Mars, some in the form of large, buried glaciers. One of the methods to harvest this buried ice is a Rodriguez Well, similar to what is used in the Antarctic to generate drinking water. This method consists of a drill boring through overburden covering the glacier and to a certain depth into the glacier ice. Once the target depth is reached (10s of meters from surface), a seal is created to pressurize the hole in the ice and melting of the ice at the tip will start. Water will be pushed out through the hollow pipe for storage and processing. This paper will discuss a portion of the work done at Michigan Technological University (MTU) in the Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (PSTDL) to study ice melt probe shapes, materials, efficiency and energy use under various environmental conditions in a vacuum chamber. This is ongoing work and this paper will provide an update of the current test setup and initial data sets. The data sets will inform Honeybee Robotics’ design for the RedWater drill architecture and design.

Publisher's Statement

Copyright © 2021 by Paul van Susante. Published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., with permission. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2021-4036

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