The proposed In-Space Recycling System builds upon the proven terrestrial application of electromagnetic levitation furnace technologies and the ISS Materials Science Laboratory - Electromagnetic Levitator heritage with the intent to reduce contact (with some aspects fully contactless) in metal recycling and reuse. Per the noted NASA TX12.4.6 Repurpose Processes gap and need for on-orbit servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (OSAM) our approach transforms spent components and larger structures into repurposed, useful products for on-orbit additive manufacturing, construction, and refueling.
We propose the use of multiple, software-controlled electromagnetic induction coils for the generation of gradients and minimums for 3 axis positioning control, movement through the heating elements, and into a desired shape. An array of sensors will determine accuracy of shape and position, enabling contactless heating and transport of the metal sample through the entire process.
Eight critical steps define the technical workflow:
The input simulants will represent the varied dimensions and mass of rough-cut raw materials from spent upper stage or structure-scale space debris. The output will be a uniform metal rod or ingot as feedstock for use in multiple potential applications such as construction, additive manufacturing, and as a propellant for spacecraft.
Our proposed solution enables NASA to directly support on-orbit development of the stated OSAM Missions, provide construction materials for persistent platforms, support Moon to Mars vehicle assembly, and provide fuel for any mission that makes use of metal-based fuel. In addition, the proposed solution builds upon the ISS MSL-EML, therein advancing the technology of this legacy experiment for future researchers and experimentalists.
Our solution enables ADR (Astroscale, Altius, Northrop Grumman) spacecraft to use propellant produced from captured debris, thus removing propellant capacity as a lifespan constraint while dramatically lowering cost per removal mission. We will supply platform builders and operators (Nanoracks, Axiom, DoD) with feedstock for construction, additive manufacturing, and an on-orbit source for fuel.