Lunar Boom Town/LOX Domestic and Exports/Lunar LOX Facility Design Study


  • Production volumes
  • Installation schedule
  • Location, deliverables requirements, and volume of specific customers.

Design Study Approach

  • Review existing technical literature and applicable terrestrial facilities and technologies
  • Detail assumptions/projections of representative customer base
  • Line out major facility requirements and components sufficient for business planning


  • Project Customer and Facility site maps.
  • Major subsystem and equipment list
  • Logistics plan, quantities, transport methods, etc.
  • Operations plans, who works where when responsibilities etc.
  • Projected operations costs and production capacities


"Several processes have been suggested (Criswell, 1980) for accomplishing this, including reduction of raw soil by fluorine (which is recovered) or reduction or iron-titanium oxide (ilmenite) hydrogen (also recovered). Preliminary laboratory studies have verified the concepts behind some of these processes."[1] Mirwin 20:11, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

This report summary by Criswell has estimates for a "Lunar Supply Base" adequate to support 80s vision of orbital manufacturing for boot stepping. Might be useful in projecting expansion increments of initial NASA base into an industrial boomtown. Has projections for staff and power.

Design issues for Lunar Liquid Oxygen Facility identified by NASA.[2]

Existing Components and SubsystemsEdit

ISS Radiators manufactured by Lockheed.[3] Perhaps expansion capacity can be manufactured locally after local aluminum is available.

Oxygen Compressor for filling air bottles with breathable oxygen. "Oil free piston operation"[4]

NASA PLSS (Primary Life Support System) crude performance specs[5][6]w:Primary_Life_Support_System

Design ChallengesEdit

What level of impurities from lunar extraction methods render LLOX unsuitable for unprocessed expansion into breathing mixtures of O2/N2?

What are economical ways of removing the impurities? Is it our problem? Perhaps we merely sell LLOX to the air venders as extracted and allow them to figure out how to economically purify it if required?

What level of impurities render llox unsuitable for what rocket engines? Are we selling rocket oxydizers or is this someone else's problem .... keep in mind this lion's share of the potential market.

In past U.S. rockets liquid oxygen used as the oxydizer has typically been of 99.5 percent purity [7]
NASA uses United States Military Specification MIL-P-25508[8] (apparently the military now uses MIL-PRF-25508G[9] as of 2006) to specify lox characteristics, note that three different grades (A,B, and F) are referenced.

Oxygen Extraction Approach One -- Solar Heating (Pyrolysis) of Lunar BasaltsEdit

Notes and linksEdit

"Solar furnace pyrolysis of lunar basalts in vacuum, as proposed by Elbert A. King and me (1983), is considered another highly promising process for nonterrestrial oxygen production. It does not require reagents imported from Earth. King (1982) demonstrated the process on Earth using terrestrial basalts and samples of the Murchison meteorite heated to approximately 3000°C in a furnace with a solar mirror 2 meters in diameter. Residues of metallic iron and oxides of aluminum, calcium, and titanium indicated the evolution of oxygen and volatile oxides of other elements. A bench-level research program is required to characterize, quantity, separate, and capture the oxygen and other volatiles liberated by the process. Residues of the process include metals (iron), semimetals (silicon), ceramics (AI-Ca- Ti oxides), and feedstocks rich in aluminum oxide for aluminum electrolysis." from Mirwin 21:35, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

  • A status summary of vacuum pyrolysis.[10]
  • Nasa article on vacuum pyrolysis of lunar regolith.[11]

Oxygen Extraction Approach Two -- Hydrogen Reduction of IlmeniteEdit

"In a review of proposed lunar oxygen production processes, including carbothermal reduction and electrolysis of basalts, Christian W. Knudsen and Michael A. Gibson, of Carbotek, Inc. (Houston), have concluded that hydrogen reduction of ilmenite is the simplest process proposed. Products of the reaction are iron, titanium dioxide, and water; oxygen is then extracted from the product water by electrolysis. Both batch and continuous-flow fluidized-bed processes for the reaction have been described. Although the preliminary results of bench-level tests on the batch process conducted by Richard J. Williams at JSC seemed promising, further engineering work by Knudsen and Gibson indicates to them that only a continuous process is practicable on a large scale." from Mirwin 21:39, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

Oxygen Extraction Approach Three -- Molten electrolyisEdit

oxygen extraction via electrolysis [12]

Safety ConsiderationsEdit

Oxygen is extremely flammable and/or explosive when concentrated and mixed with other ambient materials. Information and guidelines applicable to design of oxygen handling facilities and equipment.

NASA Glenn Research Center Glenn Safety Manual Chapter 5 - Oxygen[13] BMS Document GRC-M8300.001 Revision Date: 2/05

Applicable information resourcesEdit

  • Industrial Gas Handbook: Gas Separation and Purification[14]
  • A Terran supplier's site with an overview of liquid oxygen and nitrogen production on Earth. Note the three links to further information at bottom of the page. Nice overviews of equipment and process. Note that to use their equipment we will need to use stainless steel variant of equipment to get equivalent of medical (breathable) oxygen, recycle nitrogen, possibly redesign separator or molecular sieve or add process downstream to eliminate trace volatiles or simply live with them, add a cooling/transition process between the oxygen extraction and this liquification process. Design questions: can we do without liquifaction and simply ship high pressure oxygen gas? Is this more economical for startup? Can we afford to forego rocket oxydizer market initially?
Contains estimated pricing and quantities for commercial lunar lox facility ... useful as check on our estimates.

University of Wisconsin course notes "Lunar Base Activation"

  • Course notes outlining many methods of lunar oxygen production[15] A couple of decent diagrams and figures.

"Early Lunar Resource Utilization: A Key To Human Exploration"[16]