Except for small scale oxygen production / water recovery via electrolysis / Sabatier process on the ISS (International Space Station) there are currently no space-based processing plants to produce industrial requirements of water, life-support requirements or propellants. In saying this it is important to note that there are no technical reasons why this is not the case, only financial; and these financial constraints, both in initial launch costs, and in available customers, will significantly improve in the near future. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has already specified that they are willing to pay $US3,000 per kg for propellant in Low Earth Orbit. For any company wanting to develop such systems there are significant R&D (Research & Development) time requirements to validate untested and unproven space-based systems (See Design Risks), which means that companies cannot wait for the economics to improve and then immediately launch – they must validate the design before economics improve – and the best time to do this is right now. The first company to successfully design and operate such systems will have a significant first-mover advantage, particularly in IP (Intellectual Property), which in itself will be very valuable in the future as Space-based systems only grow.
When the first of these In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) projects are approved for implementation Etiam Engineering will be at the forefront of detailed design, construction, commissioning and final process operation / optimization. However before these projects reach these stages we can provide the following expertise from early technology reviews, desktop / scoping / concept and pre-feasibility / feasibility studies:
- Process Simulation of regolith and ore processing systems to produce required raw products, with further processing to produce required life support, fuel and oxidizer products at the correct ratios,
- Development of multiple simulation scenarios as required to ensure safe process design and future operation,
- Direct inclusion into simulation of spacecraft Delta-V and propellant consumption estimations, to optimize operational periods and processing rates,
- Mineralogical, thermodynamic and process chemistry determination,
- Test-work and piloting scope development,
- Development of total plant energy and radiator (or other) removal requirements, including specification of various energy sources, such as photovoltaic cells, solar mirrors and nuclear power,
- Expert development / review of all process design deliverables, including (but not limited to) design basis, design criteria, detailed equipment design, calculations, PFD’s, PIDs, option-selection,
- Expert development / review of asteroid selection and specification, including (but not limited to) total Delta-V, diameter, class, rotational speed, 3D geometry, orbital period, round-trip access, distance from sun,
- Expert development / review of mining locations on the Moon and Mars, including (but not limited to) known / estimated mineralogy and ore / ice deposits, access to other life support / energy requirements, accessibility by spacecraft,
- Strong Health, Safety, Environment, Quality and Community emphasis in all design matters, including (but not limited to) the development / review of HAZOP’s, HAZID, ENVID, risk analysis, environmental release analysis,
- Expertise from multiple projects for the production of water, carbon dioxide, oxygen, hydrogen and associated re-processing to produce multiple oxidizers and fuels, on asteroids, the Moon and Mars.