In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) involves collecting and converting local resources into products that can be used to reduce mission mass, cost, and/or risk of human exploration. ISRU products that provide significant mission benefits with minimal infrastructure required are propellants, fuel cell reactants, and life support consumables. Production of mission consumables from in-situ Mars resources is enabling and critical for human exploration of the Mars surface and for minimizing the number and size of landers and the crew ascent vehicle.To understand both the dust concentration before filtration as well as the effectiveness of dust filtration techniques used in ISRU operations, NASA is interested in a dust sensor to measure 0.1 to 5 micron sized dust particles in the Mars atmosphere acquired for processing.
Southwest Sciences proposes to design, build, and demonstrate a novel non-intrusive optical particle measurement technology for measuring these particles under the NASA defined operating conditions. This in-line particle concentration/size monitor is based on a variant of laser intensity attenuation. The method is compact, low power, can be multiplexed to increase throughput and/or dynamic range, uses no consumable, and is independent of carrier gas, gas temperature and gas pressure.
The initial application of this proposed sensor, is for dust particle size and concentration measurements at the gas inlet of an ISRU system. The technology developed can be adapted to other planetary, small body, and terrestrial applications where non-invasive, sensitive, compact particle size and concentration measurements need to be made.
Potential applications in other government agencies include atmospheric aerosol/dust monitoring on both ground and airborne (manned/UAV/balloon) platforms within DOE, NOAA and EPA. Possible commercial markets include particle measurement systems for commercial and research use. In particular, this instrument would find commercial use in measuring atmospheric and environmental aerosols, as an industrial particulate pollution monitor, and in power plant feedback controls.