Jan 18, 2017

Lecturer: Jerry Sanders, NASA Johnson Space Center

Gerald Sanders has worked at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) full time for over 29 years, in the Propulsion and Power Division of the Engineering Directorate, and has extensive experience in chemical propulsion, fluid systems, and In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). Mr. Sanders currently serves as the ISRU Capability Leadership Team lead for the Agency in the Office of Chief Engineer, ISRU lead for the System Management Team, and Deputy Project Manager for the ISRU Project in the Advanced Exploration Systems program. Mr Sanders currently serves as a Co-Investigator on the Mars OXygen Isru Experiment (MOXIE) for the Mars 2020 rover, initiated development of the RESOLVE payload for the Resource Prospector mission scheduled for launch for 2020, and co-proposed and developed the Mars In-situ propellant production Precursor (MIP) for the cancelled Mars 2001 Surveyor lander. Mr. Sanders has worked in the area of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) for over 21 years. During this time, he supported or led most major architecture studies, technology road mapping, and hardware development activities associated with Mars and Lunar ISRU within the agency. Besides working ISRU, Mr. Sanders has worked extensively in the area of crewed vehicle and in-space chemical propulsion development, served as NASA propulsion lead for Russian propulsion and propellant transfer systems for the International Space Station from 1992 to 1998, and served as the Chief for the Propulsion and Fluid Systems Branch in the Engineering Directorate at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) for four years (2005-2001), and Deputy for 3 years (2001-1998). Mr. Sanders received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in June of 1987.

Topic: Human Mission Architectures and Approaches/Concepts for Incorporating ISRU

Even before astronauts took their first steps on the Moon during Apollo 11, scientists and engineers had been considering and even testing ideas on how to extract and use useful products from resources found in space. Known as In Situ Resource Utilization, or ISRU, the ability to extract and produce oxygen, water, and fuels from resources found in space can have a profound effect on how humans explore our solar system and eventually make settlements beyond Earth’s orbit. These Products from space resources can then be used to reduce the mass and cost of robotic and human exploration, reduce the risk by enabling self-sufficiency, and increase performance or enable new mission concepts compared to bringing everything from Earth. ISRU can also further reduce costs by enabling reusability of equipment and transportation vehicles that were previously discarded once their consumables had been used. While numerous studies and advisory committees have identified the mass, cost, risk, and mission benefits of using space resources to enable affordable and sustainable human exploration of the Moon and Mars, mission planners and NASA management have been hesitant to incorporate ISRU capabilities into missions due to limited development and lack of flight experience. This presentation examines the questions of why and how to best incorporate ISRU capabilities into human exploration missions by examining the potential benefits, approaches, and important factors that must be considered from the start of mission planning. These include whether ISRU is used from the start or evolves over time, what mission drivers and needs are the most important, how ISRU will be used to support the architecture, what the challenges are for developing and operating ISRU in space, and whether the use of ISRU for a mission need is economical compared to bringing everything from Earth. The presentation will then specifically examine the insertion of ISRU into the recent NASA Evolvable Mars Campaign; both uses and incorporation strategy. Lastly, the presentation will consider the different pathways human exploration might take to get to the Mars surface, and how ISRU might be developed and demonstrated to support these pathways to minimize both risk and cost.

Recommended Readings:

Cis-Lunar Reusable In-Space Transportation Architecture for the Evolvable Mars Campaign (click here to download)
An ISRU Propellant Production System to Fully Fuel a Mars Ascent Vehicle (click here to download)
Sustaining Human Presence on Mars Using ISRU and a Reusable Lander (click here to download)

Lecture Slides: click here to download

Recorded talk: click to view