Wood’s pipeline expertise shoots for the moonIndustrial Editor Pick gaseous LSPOP lunar Lunar Resources metals moon NASA oxygen pipeline wood
Oxygen transportation will be key to lunar operations.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Innovation Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program has awarded a grant to consulting engineering firm Wood and space industrial company Lunar Resources to study the feasibility of an oxygen pipeline on the moon.
The proposed Lunar South Pole Oxygen Pipeline (LSPOP) would transport gaseous oxygen from an extraction site to a lunar base. The extraction would be essential to lunar operations, but transportation poses a major challenge.
“We estimate robotic rovers and gas tanks would use more energy to transport the oxygen than extracting it,” explains Peter Curreri, Lunar Resources’ chief scientist.
“The moon’s reduced gravity and vacuum environment will force the team to rewrite the rules on designing pipelines,” adds Matthew Laborde, the company’s consulting senior pipeline engineer.
With these issues in mind, NASA chose Wood based on its experience developing terrestrial pipeline transportation systems.
“To bring our expertise to the lunar surface is incredibly exciting for both the potential impact this pipeline could have on lunar development and the technical challenges we must solve to implement a project this advanced,” says Mark Netzel, on-shore vice-president (VP) for Wood’s projects business.
The companies will lead an end-to-end, system-level design study. This will include exploring the feasibility of building elements of the LSPOP in situ, using metals found in abundance on the moon. Lunar Resources is leading development of molten regolith electrolysis, has built full-scale systems being tested for flights to the moon and has extracted high-purity iron, aluminum and silicon from its process.
The NIAC grant covers an initial nine-month feasibility study and is part of Lunar Resources’ plan to supply in-situ commodities on the moon’s south pole by 2028.