Combustion of lunar regolith mixed with energetic additives: Thermodynamic calculations and experimental studies

Francisco Alvarez, University of Texas at El Paso


The future of space exploration will require longer missions in order to better understand the conditions of near-Earth celestial objects, like the Moon or Mars. Future space missions will require the development of goods, such as propulsion fuel and structural materials, produced using the extraterrestrial resources available. The area that develops these technologies is called In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). ISRU allows reducing the payload, and as a consequence reduces the energy consumption and cost of space travel. The production of structural materials on the Moon can be accomplished using Self-Propagating High-Temperature Synthesis (SHS). This work describes the combination of ISRU and SHS for the production of dense and strong structural ceramics by means of the combustion of mixtures of lunar regolith simulant JSC-1A and energetic additives (magnesium, aluminum, calcium, and titanium and boron). The thermodynamic calculations to validate the combustion of these mixtures, experimental studies using magnesium and aluminum additives, the design of a rig to fly onboard Zero-G, and the effect of microgravity on the combustion are presented in this document. The calculation of the adiabatic flame temperature shows that magnesium is the better option for low-additive concentrations. JSC-1A/Mg mixtures combustion was performed for different JSC-1A particle sizes and under different gravity conditions. The temperature and front velocity were measured. The temperature and front velocity increase with decreasing JSC-1A particle size. The front velocity shows a slight increase as the gravity conditions increase. The JSC-1A/Al mixtures do not show propagation for a standard SHS process. The products do not show a high strength. SHS Compaction can be used to increase strength and density.

Subject Area

Engineering|Mechanical engineering|Astronomy

Recommended Citation

Alvarez, Francisco, "Combustion of lunar regolith mixed with energetic additives: Thermodynamic calculations and experimental studies" (2011). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1503701.