NASA is requesting technologies for a sintering end-effector. Blueshift d/b/a Outward Technologies proposes to develop an end effector system for selective sintering of lunar regolith with sunlight that can interface with different types of solar concentrators. This Sintering End Effector for Regolith (SEER) will implement an innovative design that enables indefinite exposure to sintering temperatures and utilizes Outward’s patent pending concentrated solar thermal control technology for delivering and maintaining temperatures within 1% of the set point. Benefits of the proposed innovation include precise temperature control for consistent sintering, resistance to damage from high temperature exposure for prolonged use, 95% transmission efficiency across the spectrum of sunlight, up to 5x concentration enhancement, and a system that is lightweight and easily deployed. The Phase I effort will focus on the design, fabrication, and testing of the SEER system for sintering lunar regolith over long periods of time. Three key features will be developed and demonstrated: precision temperature control around the sintering temperature of regolith (1,100° C to within 1% of target), prolonged use at sintering temperatures (30 minutes non-stop in Phase I), and maximizing efficiency through testing various prototype design variables. Phase I will conclude with a demonstration of sintering a 2D shape into a bed on Lunar regolith simulant JSC-1A.
The primary application within NASA’s technology roadmap for the SEER technology is TA7.1.4 for regolith sintering as well as TA7.1.3 for efficient heat and energy transfer from a solar concentrator for various thermal applications. As a system developed for solar additive manufacturing and construction, the SEER can be incorporated into several future unmanned NASA missions to near earth asteroids, the lunar surface, Martian moons, Mars orbit, and the Martian surface.
The SEER technology will be most useful anywhere that electrical infrastructure is not established and sufficient sunlight is available. The technology is ideal for enhancing Outward’s solar additive manufacturing system under development and would be attractive to underserved communities in the US, in developing countries around the world, and in the burgeoning commercial space industry.