NASA SBIR 2009 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 09-2 X3.02-9169
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Lunar ISRU Development and Precursor Activities
PROPOSAL TITLE: Lunar Organic Waste Reformer

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Pioneer Astronautics
11111 W. 8th Avenue, Unit A
Lakewood, CO 80215 - 5516
(303) 980-0890

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Robert Zubrin
11111 W. 8th Avenue, Unit A
Lakewood, CO 80215 - 5516
(303) 303-0890

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
The Lunar Organic Waste Reformer (LOWR) utilizes high temperature steam reformation to convert all plastic, paper, and human waste materials into useful gases. In the LOWR, solar thermal concentrators are used to heat steam directly to 600 C, after which the steam is mixed with a small amount of oxygen and injected into a reactor which is being fed with waste materials via a lock hopper. At the high temperatures, the oxygenated steam will react with all organic materials to produce a gas mixture largely composed of hydrogen, CO and carbon dioxide. After removing the remaining steam from the product stream via condensation, the gases are dusulfurized and then fed to a catalytic reactor where they can be combined with hydrogen to produce methane, methanol, or other fuels. Both the necessary hydrogen and oxygen for the process can be produced by electrolysis of part of the water content of the waste material, which is extracted from the wastes directly by the reformer itself. With effective recycling of the steam, no consumables are lost in the process. All products are liquids or gases, making the system highly reliable and subject to automation. In the proposed Phase 2 program, Pioneer Astronautics will build a full-scale end-to-end LOWR system capable of turning 10 kg of waste per day into methane and oxygen.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The LOWR can be a key component of the lunar exploration program by allowing available power sources to enable production of oxygen and fuel on a sufficient scale to significantly reduce Lunar base logistic requirements. Depending upon the rocket propulsion and transportation system employed, the fuel produced by the LOWR from recycled waste can comprise between 50% and 100% of a fuel required to operate a lunar ascent vehicle used to transport crew from the Lunar surface to orbit. The oxygen produced can also comprise a substantial fraction of all oxidizer required by a lunar ascent vehicle system, thereby minizizing further the propellant mass that needs to be transported at great expense from Earth, or alternatively, greatly reducing the mass and power requirements of a system designed to extract oxygen from lunar regolith. Therefore, the ability to produce fuel and oxygen in quantity on the lunar surface can have a major role in reducing total program costs.
The LOWR is not limited to Lunar applications. It can be used on the Martian surface, or on any long duration piloted spacecraft, including the International Space Station or any deep space crewed vehicle used for example on human missions to Near Earth asteroids or Mars. In such latter applications it offers great advantages as a means of transforming crew wastes into useful propellants that can be used to enable station keeping, mid-course corrections, or other deep space maneuvers.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The Lunar Organic Waste Recycler can also be a valuable tool wherever organic wastes or other low cost biomass are available for conversion to synthesis gas. Corn stover, for example, is currently available commercially in large quantities for $40/tonne. If converted into synthesis gas, each tonne of corn stover can provide enough carbon monoxide and to make about 700 kg of methanol, which at current spot market prices would sell for about $200. Methanol is currently used as a major commodity in the chemical industry and could be used a motor vehicle fuel in flex fuel cars. The LOWR could similarly be used to transform other crop and forestry residues, as well as urban paper, plastic, and metabolic wastes into synthesis gas for production of methane or liquid hydrocarbon fuels via Fischer Tropsch processes. Thus LOWR technology could become the basis for highly profitable industries which make a significant contribution towards the vital national goal of freeing the nation from its dependence on foreign oil.
The LOWR can be built on a modest scale making it readily transportable by truck, ship, or airplane. This makes it ideal for use in remote locations such as military outposts or third world villages which need to obtain fuel without ready access to ordinary commercial suppliers. Methane from remotely operated LOWR-derived units could be used to generate power in on site gas turbines, for motor vehicle fuel, or for cooking or other purposes

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.)
Biochemical Conversion
Earth-Supplied Resource Utilization
In-situ Resource Utilization
Renewable Energy
Waste Processing and Reclamation

Form Generated on 08-06-10 17:29