Solar Towers For Lunar Energy and Microwave Moon Mining

NASA NIAC has an update on the Lunar Polar Mining Outpost (LPMO). It is a breakthrough mission architecture that promises to greatly reduce the cost of human exploration and industrialization of the Moon.

The first invention, Sun Flower stems from a new insight into lunar topography. Multi-kilometer landing areas in lunar polar regions are likely ice-rich regolith in perpetual darkness but with perpetual sunlight available at altitudes of only 100s of meters. Deploying reflectors on towers a few hundred meters tall (lightweight and feasible in lunar gravity) can provide nearly continuous solar power.

he second enabling innovation for LGMO is Radiant Gas Dynamic (RGD) mining. RGD mining uses a combination of radio frequency, microwave, and infrared radiation to heat permafrost and other types of ice deposits with a depth-controlled heating profile.

RGD mining will allow the development of a practical system that can be constructed on a mobile platform to enable the use of a mixture of different types of radiant energy with different penetration depths to control the release of water vapor from hard lunar permafrost in such a way that it can be trapped and captured by a water collection system. Although microwave extraction methods have been proposed in the past they have typically required prior excavation of substrate material or did not include methods to prevent re-trapping of water by cold regolith. By using a multi-frequency radiant system, RGD provides a variable heating profile that sublimates water vapor in layers from the top down and encourages evolved water to migrate into cryotraps in the vehicle while minimizing refreezing of the water vapor in the surrounding substrate.

A 5-ton RGD mining vehicle and would each be capable of harvesting 100 times its mass per year in water.

Written by Brian Wang,