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SBIR Phase I:Regolith size sorting technology for space resource utilization

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2304616
Agency Tracking Number: 2304616
Amount: $246,028.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: SP
Solicitation Number: NSF 22-551
Solicitation Year: 2022
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2023-10-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-06-30
Small Business Information
WeWork ℅ Interlune 1201 3rd Avenue, Suite 2200
Seattle, WA, WA 98101
United States
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Gary Lai
 (206) 234-8419
Business Contact
 Gary Lai
Phone: (206) 234-8419
Research Institution

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is to develop a core enabling technology for lunar in situ resource utilization: the ability to sort “Moon dirt” (lunar regolith) by particle size. Size sorting is an important capability for nearly all in situ resource utilization activities that use lunar regolith as a feedstock material. By enabling raw lunar regolith to be sorted into multiple streams by particle size, the technology will provide appropriate feedstocks for lunar oxygen extraction systems, lunar 3-dimensional printers, and other applications. The use of the Moon’s resources is a disruptive capability that will enable missions there to “live off the land,” making the development of this technology important for government agencies and industry alike. The many potential applications of lunar in situ resource utilization promise to make this a multi-billion dollar market. _x000D_
This SBIR Phase I project proposes to develop and demonstrate a novel regolith size sorting system for use on the Moon that has 10x smaller volume, 5x lower mass, and greater reliability than traditional devices such as vibratory sieves (vibrating screens). The project will also develop a new lunar regolith simulant designed to mimic real lunar regolith’s particle size distribution and flow properties. While size sorting on Earth is well understood, size sorting dynamics on the Moon are not well understood and size sorting is identified as a gap in lunar technology road maps. The team will address performance and scalability risks by developing a device which uses rotating paddles to provide centrifugal motion to sieve the particles through a screen. A variety of centrifuge aspect ratios, paddle configurations, and rotational speeds will be tested to optimize throughput. Additionally, blinding (plugging) of the sieve by regolith particles will be characterized at different rotational speeds and addressed, if necessary, by developing and testing anti-blinding features on the rotating paddles, such as brushes and low-friction wipers. Finally, the device will be demonstrated to operate in lunar gravity on a parabolic aircraft flight using the new simulant._x000D_
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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