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Extraterrestrial Metals Processing

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NNX17CP08C
Agency Tracking Number: 155928
Amount: $749,637.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: H1.01
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2016
Award Year: 2017
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2017-04-17
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2019-04-16
Small Business Information
11111 West 8th Avenue, Unit A
Lakewood, CO 80215-5516
United States
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Mark Berggren
 Chief Engineer
 (303) 980-0231
Business Contact
 Robert Zubrin
Title: Business Official
Phone: (303) 980-0890
Research Institution

The Extraterrestrial Metals Processing (EMP) system produces iron, silicon, and light metals from Mars, Moon, or asteroid resources in support of advanced human space exploration. Refractory oxides and minor constituents such as sulfur, phosphorus, and alkaline earth oxides are also generated as byproducts and can be used for the refining of finished goods, thereby further reducing dependence on Earth-based consumables.
Iron is produced via reduction of oxides by hydrogen or carbon monoxide. Silicon, ferrosilicon, and high-purity fumed silicon monoxide are generated via carbothermal reduction of silica-containing resources. Reductants are generated using established ISRU-related technologies including electrolysis, the reverse water gas shift reaction, the Boudouard carbon deposition reaction, and combinations thereof. During Phase I, magnesium metal was successfully produced via silicothermic reduction. Alternative light metal reduction methods will be evaluated and compared to the baseline silicothermic reduction of magnesium oxide for structural applications, replacement parts, and manufacturing hardware on Mars. A high-quality fumed silicon monoxide product can be further oxidized and used for production of clear glass. Upon reduction with carbon, SiO can also be used to make high purity silicon for the production of semiconductor materials using doping agents such as phosphorus.
The Phase II effort will expand on the findings of the Phase I work with demonstration of an end-to-end system to produce iron and steel at a rate on the order of one kilogram per day. Example parts will be made using casting, sintering, or advanced manufacturing methods. In parallel with the demonstration of end-to-end iron production during Phase II, light metals manufacturing methods evaluated during Phase I will be further refined. Small-scale production of light metals will be demonstrated during Phase II.

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

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