Masten Space Systems (Rocket M, Astrobotic)

Developing a robotic rover called Rocket M that could one day mine water on the Moon using rocket blasts.

Created: 2023-02-09

Updated: 2023-09-03

Product/Service - Rocket M

Classification
Space Resources
Category
Space Mining
Resources - Asteroid Mining
Fields
Mining
Water ice
Status
Concept
First launch
Not announced

Masten Space Systems is developing a robotic rover called Rocket M that could one day mine water on the Moon using rocket blasts. An entrant in NASA's Break the Ice challenge, the rover uses rocket pulses to break up ice-bearing lunar soil or regolith and collect up to 220 pounds (100 kg) of ice particles per day.

NASA selected 10 additional teams that submitted viable and innovative ideas that could benefit to NASA and the nation soon. Each will receive $25,000 of Phase 1 of the Break the Ice Lunar Challenge in 2021.

Working with Honeybee Robotics and Lunar Outpost, Masten has come up with Rocket M, which weighs 2,465 pounds (1,118 kg) and is delivered to the lunar surface by a lander that also acts as a support station.

Once deployed, the solar-powered craft can travel at up to 2.14 mph (3.45 km/h) and can negotiate 20 percent inclines. It moves to a grid of preselected mining spots and sets down a metal pressure dome that makes a seal on the regolith. A rocket capable of 100 pounds of thrust fires in half-second pulses, subjecting the regolith to direct convective heating, which breaks up the surface to a depth of up to 6.6 feet (2 m).

Once pulverized, the icy ore is sucked into the rover and the grains are passed over a magnetic separator before passing into a pneumatic cyclone chamber that whirls out the heavier particles. The remaining grains go through an electrostatic sorter, a second cyclonic chamber, then over cold plates to recapture any water that's turned into vapor, and the purified ice is then stored for transport. The whole process takes only 5 to 10 minutes.

Masten estimates that the system, which has already been tested on simulated lunar regolith, could mine 12 craters per day. At 220 pounds (100 kg) of ice per crater, that works out to 426 tonnes of water recovered in a year. The rocket system runs on oxygen and hydrogen electrolyzed from water, so it effectively mines its own fuel.

Because of its light weight and mobility, Rocket M is scalable and can work around boulders, breccia, basalt, and other obstacles. In addition to mining ice, the system can also be used to mine dry regolith for building materials.

Astrobotic acquired the assets but keeping this entry for historical records: A federal bankruptcy court approved the sale of nearly all the assets of Masten Space Systems, a company developing a lunar lander for a NASA mission, to another lander developer, Astrobotic.

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