Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has signed a study contract with the European Space Agency worth one million euros for a payload concept to extract oxygen from Moon rock.
For a sustainable habitation on the Moon, humans will need to utilise resources that they find on the Moon rather than transport these resources from Earth; one of these resources is oxygen. Thales Alenia Space teams in the UK have worked with AVS, Metalysis, Open University and Redwire Space Europe to specify a demonstration payload for a European Space Agency Lunar Mission that uses molten salt and electrolysis to extract oxygen from Moon rock ‘regolith’.
The winning proposal from an ESA competition between multiple industrial consortia, this payload concept will demonstrate that In Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) can be performed on the Moon efficiently and to produce oxygen in the quantities required by future Moon colonies.
Andrew Stanniland, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in the UK commented “This contract award is incredibly exciting. The adaption of processes and tools to the space environment, many of which we take for granted on Earth, will be critical in many areas of our future. I am proud that our dedicated teams will be leading this study together with our valued partners AVS, Metalysis, Open University and Redwire Space Europe to solve the complex challenge of creating oxygen to sustain life on the lunar surface.”
David Binns Systems Engineer at ESA's Concurrent Design Facility added "ESA is looking forward to working with Thales Alenia Space in the UK and their partners to develop an oxygen extraction demonstrator further as part of the space resources initiative. Finding solutions to the challenges posed to make sustainable lunar exploration a reality.”