NASA SBIR 2015 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 15-1 H1.01-9278
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Regolith ISRU for Mission Consumable Production
PROPOSAL TITLE: Demonstration of "Optical Mining" For Excavation of Asteroids and Production of Mission Consumables

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
ICS Associates, Inc.
11404 Camaloa Avenue
Lake View Terrace, CA 91342 - 6810
(818) 422-0514

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Mr. Joel Sercel PhD
11404 Camaloa Avenue
Lake View Terrace, CA 91342 - 6810
(818) 422-0514

CORPORATE/BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Mr. Joel C Sercel PhD
11404 Camaloa Avenue
Lake View Terrace, CA 91342 - 6810
(818) 422-0514

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 4

Technology Available (TAV) Subtopics
Regolith ISRU for Mission Consumable Production is a Technology Available (TAV) subtopic that includes NASA Intellectual Property (IP). Do you plan to use the NASA IP under the award?

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
This SBIR Phase-1 project will demonstrate the feasibility of an innovative breakthrough in ISRU methods that we call "Optical Mining". Optical mining is an approach to simultaneously excavating carbonaceous chondrite asteroid surfaces and driving water and other volatiles out of the excavated material and into an enclosing inflatable bag without the need for complex or impractical robotics. In optical mining, highly concentrated sunlight is delivered to the surface of the asteroid through a mechanically simple but optically sophisticated system of reflective non-imaging optics. The highly concentrated optical energy ablates the surface in a controlled way analogous to how intense lasers can ablate surfaces constantly exposing new material and forcing water out of the ablated material. Optical mining is part of a mission concept that ICS Associates has developed called Apis (Asteroid Provided In-Situ Systems). Apis is a commercially viable approach to the extraction, processing, and delivery of water from asteroids to in-space assets. Mission system studies show that Apis can extract up to 100MT of water from an accessible near Earth asteroid and deliver it to Lunar Distant Retrograde Orbit (LDRO) based on the launch of just one modest sized spacecraft from a single Falcon 9 rocket. The Apis mission concept depends on the completion of the proposed SBIR work. In this Phase-1 SBIR we will develop a facility to simulate and demonstrate key aspects of optical mining to show the mission system feasibility of Apis and provide a breakthrough in ISRU and space transportation for NASA. We will do this by upgrading an existing xenon arc lamp and vacuum system and using the optical energy from the lamp to simulate optical mining on asteroid materials in vacuum. We will perform experiments to validate the process by optically ablating the surfaces of meteorite samples and asteroid simulations under carefully controlled and observed conditions.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The proposed work will support NASA's plans for human exploration by providing mission consumables and propellant for all missions of the Evolvable Mars Campaign including: human exploration missions to Lunar Distant Retrograde Orbit (LDRO), human exploration missions to near Earth asteroids in their native orbits, exploration of the Moon, and exploration of Mars.

Completion of the proposed work demonstrating the physics and chemistry of optical mining will enable NASA to fly the extremely exciting "Apis" mission. Requiring only a modest-sized spacecraft launched to a low positive C3 compatible with a single Falcon 9 rocket, Apis is capable of providing NASA with propellant and mission consumables in cis-lunar space. The proposed SBIR work will demonstrate a key aspect of the Apis mission, namely the process of "Optical Mining" to excavate asteroid surfaces by ablation, drive water from the ablated materials, collect the evolved water as ice in cold storage bags, and return up to 100MT (metric tonnes) of water to LDRO or other depot location.

Optical mining could also be used to extract the volatile materials from the target of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and convert that material to consumables and propellant in cis-lunar space to support human exploration.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The proposed work is designed to create an industrial revolution in space in which propellant and other consumables for commercial processes in space are supplied from near Earth asteroids instead of from the surface of the Earth. Our mission system studies show that such propellant, if minded from highly-accessible Near Earth Objects (NEOs) can be used to supply propellant for reusable solar thermal orbit transfer vehicles that fly on recirculating routes between LEO, GEO, and a propellant depot in LDRO. These reusable solar thermal OTVs, which we call Worker Bees, more than double the effective throw capability of launch vehicles by eliminating the need for high energy upper stages and allowing rockets to launch their payloads to LEO instead of to high-energy transfer orbits. The proposed Phase 1 SBIR will perform a critical proof of concept that enables this vision, creates a commercial market in space for asteroid mining products, and allows the development of commercial OTVs supplied from asteroid ISRU.

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.)
Analytical Instruments (Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma, Energy; see also Sensors)
Analytical Methods
Cryogenic/Fluid Systems
In Situ Manufacturing
Models & Simulations (see also Testing & Evaluation)
Sources (Renewable, Nonrenewable)
Space Transportation & Safety

Form Generated on 04-23-15 15:37