Feb 27, 2017

Lecturer: Tony Muscatello, Kennedy Space Center

Dr. Tony Muscatello is a NASA research chemist at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida who focuses on space resource utilization, especially propellant and oxygen production on the Moon and Mars. He has worked on In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) for almost two decades, first at Pioneer Astronautics in the Denver, CO area and at KSC. At Pioneer he worked on several ISRU and other projects, serving as Principal Investigator for METAMARS, a carbon dioxide to methane to benzene/oxygen propellant system, and IMISPPS, a carbon dioxide to methane and carbon monoxide propellant system that produces sufficient oxygen to burn all the methane. At KSC, he led the Lunar Water Resource Demonstration (LWRD) team for RESOLVE for the 2008 Field Demonstration, was NASA’s lead for lunar oxygen production via carbothermal reduction of regolith, and contributed to or led several ISRU projects. He currently serves as the Risk Manager for RESOLVE, the primary instrument for the proposed Resource Prospector lunar mission and is the PI for Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Mars Atmospheric ISRU project. Tony grew up near Princeton, WV, obtained his B.S. in Chemistry at Concord College in Athens, WV, and earned his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry at the Florida State University. He subsequently worked on actinide separations and plutonium recovery at Argonne National Laboratory, Rockwell International/Rocky Flats Plant, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Topic:  Atmospheric Capture on Mars

The ultimate destination of NASA’s human exploration program is Mars. In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is a key technology required to enable such missions, as first proposed by Prof. Robert Ash in 1976.  This presentation will review progress in the systems required to produce rocket propellant, oxygen, and other consumables on Mars using the carbon dioxide atmosphere and other potential resources. For many years, NASA, commercial companies, and academia have been developing, and demonstrating techniques to capture and purify Martian atmospheric gases for their utilization for the production of hydrocarbons, oxygen, and water in ISRU systems. Other gases will be required to be separated from Martian atmospheric gases to provide pure CO2 for processing elements. Significant progress has been demonstrated in CO2 collection via adsorption by molecular sieves, freezing, and direct compression. Early stage work in adsorption in Ionic Liquids followed by electrolysis to oxygen is also underway. In addition, other Martian gases, such as nitrogen and argon, occur in concentrations high enough to be useful as buffer gas and could be captured as well. Gas separation requirements include, but are not limited to the selective separation of: (1) methane and water from unreacted carbon oxides (CO2-CO) and hydrogen typical of a Sabatier-type process, (2) carbon oxides and water from unreacted hydrogen from a Reverse Water-Gas Shift process, and (3) carbon oxides from oxygen from a trash/waste processing reaction.

Recommended Readings:
An ISRU Propellant Production System to Fully Fuel a Mars Ascent Vehicle, click here to download
MOXIE – Mars OXygen ISRU Experiment, click here to download
Mars Atmospheric In Situ Resource Utilization Projects at the Kennedy Space Center, click here to download

Lecture Slides: click here to download

Recorded talk: click to view