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Thermal, Chemical, & Rheological Analysis of Novel Lunar Simulants & Their Components - Takeaways for ISRU

Presentation #220.11 in the session Laboratory Investigations (Poster + Lightning Talk)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Thermal, Chemical, & Rheological Analysis of Novel Lunar Simulants & Their Components - Takeaways for ISRU

NASA Artemis III is planning a return to the moon in 2025 with the future intent of lunar construction and habitation. Due to the cost of spaceflight, a focus on in situ resource utilization (ISRU) has taken place to economically optimize the construction process. Robust technology development requires simulants that are faithful to the lunar regolith. Therefore, care is taken for the selection and assessment of terrestrially derived lunar simulants. This study aims to characterize and assess the bulk variability of lunar simulants and simulant components.

This study characterized: the Colorado School of Mines Lunar Highland Type 1 Augite (CSM-LHT-1G), a full lunar simulant; the NASA-USGS-Washington Mills Lunar Highland Type 5 Medium (NUW-LHT-5M), a state-of-the-art full lunar simulant provided by NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center; The NASA-USGS-Washington Mills Lunar Highland Type 5 Medium High-Quality Glass (NUW-LHT-5M HQ glass), a state-of-the-art glass component also provided by NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center; Exolith Lab’s Lunar Highland Simulant 1 (LHS-1), a standard fidelity full lunar simulant; and Stillwater Anorthosite lunar simulant component. These results were compared to Johnson Space Center’s planetary simulant standard JSC-1A. Simulants were tested through numerous techniques including Helium gas pycnometry for powder densities, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy for bulk chemistry, wet chemistry to evaluate the Iron redox states, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) for heat capacity and enthalpy data, spindle rheometry to assess viscosity of molten simulant to 1700°C, and light flash analysis (LFA) combined with DSC to determine the thermal diffusivity and conductivity of melted bulk glass.

Data supports glassy regolith for energy conservation due to the lower enthalpy requirements for melting. Further, laboratory testing emphasizes the use of durable, platinum equipment for in situ manufacturing. Our results show that despite their varying chemical and physical compositions, once molten, they behave similarly indicating that slight heterogeneity within lunar regolith will not significantly affect ISRU processing.

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