In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) involves any hardware or operation that harnesses and utilizes ‘in-situ’ resources (natural and discarded) to create products and services for robotic and human exploration. Local resources include ‘natural’ resources found on extraterrestrial bodies such as water, solar wind-implanted volatiles (hydrogen, helium, carbon, nitrogen, etc.), vast quantities of metals in mineral rocks and soils, and atmospheric constituents, as well as human-made resources such as trash and waste from the human crew, and discarded hardware that has completed its primary purpose. The most useful products from ISRU are propellants, fuel cell reactants, life support commodities (such as water, oxygen, and buffer gases), and feedstock for manufacturing and construction. ISRU products and services can be used to i) reduce Earth launch mass or lander mass by not bringing everything from Earth, ii) reduce risks to the crew and/or mission by reducing logistics, increasing shielding, and providing increased self-sufficiency, and/or iii) reducing costs by either needing less launch vehicles to complete the mission or through the reuse of hardware and lander/space transportation vehicles. Since ISRU systems must operate wherever the resource of interest exists, technologies and hardware will need to be designed to operate in harsh environments, reduced gravity, and potential non-homogeneous resource physical, mineral, and ice/volatile characteristics. This year’s solicitation will focus on critical technologies needed in the areas of Resource Acquisition and Consumable Production for the Moon and Mars. The ISRU focus area is seeking innovative technology for:
• Regolith Transfer
• Non-Water Volatile Capture and Utilization
• Mineral Beneficiation
• Metal Production
• Regolith Inlet/Outlet Valves
As appropriate, the specific needs and metrics of each of these specific technologies are described in the subtopic descriptions.