Demonstration of Advanced Mars ISRU CO2 Recovery System
Human exploration of Mars and unmanned sample return missions can benefit greatly from the resources available on Mars. The first major step of any Mars in-situ propellant production system is the acquisition of carbon dioxide and its compression from a total pressure of around 5 torr to a reasonable storage and processing pressure in the 100 to 200 kPa range. This compression ratio of ~150 (from 5.0 to 760 torr) can be achieved by common vacuum pump technology, however, operating such devices in the Mars environment is difficult and unreliable due to the limited lifetime of rapidly moving parts, temperature extremes, frequent starts and stops, and dust. The power requirement, in the form of electricity, is also prohibitive unless the spacecraft has nuclear power. TDA Research Inc. is developing a compact, lightweight, advanced sorbent-based compressor to recover high-pressure, high purity CO2 from the Martian atmosphere. The system eliminates the need for a mechanical pump, increasing the reliability with relatively low power consumption. TDA’s system uses a new, high capacity sorbent that selectively adsorbs CO2 at 5 torr and regenerates by temperature swing, producing a continuous, high purity CO2 flow at pressure (> 760 torr). Previously, we have successfully completed bench-scale proof-of-concept demonstrations, elevating the TRL to 3. In a current SBIR Phase II project, we further scaled-up the sorbent production and are now working on integrating the sorbent into a sub-scale rapid (relatively fast) thermal swing adsorption/desorption cycling system prototype system. Test results from the demonstration of the sorbent in the rapid cycling adsorption system (which will elevate the TRL to 5) will be presented at the meeting.