Energy requirements of a thermally processed ISRU radiation shield for a lunar habitat

Spedding, Christopher P.; Nuttall, William J. and Lim, Sungwoo (2020). Energy requirements of a thermally processed ISRU radiation shield for a lunar habitat. Advances in Space Research (Early Access).



The purpose of this study was to establish, on a first principles basis, the order of magnitude of energy requirements for a thermally processed, lunar regolith radiation shield constructed using an in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU) approach. This was done by developing a reference scenario habitat and using thermodynamic relationships and specific heat capacity expressions to determine the energy required to bring such a regolith volume up to sintering temperatures (c. 1375 K). Once the energy requirements were developed some power system architectures were outlined conceptually and a nuclear power plant of c. 400 kW was suggested as a means to supply the necessary energy. This is well beyond current space nuclear applications. The study concludes that it is likely that the most efficient near-term solution is chemical processing of regolith, from an energy requirements perspective. The technology is also more mature and likely to be delivered on near term projects as it does not require such scaled-up power system architectures. Alternatively, bringing storm shelters up with the habitat to provide a means of weathering major solar events, and adding additional radiation protection to habitat quarters, possibly through a water blanket or similar mechanism, could provide a non-ISRU solution with current technology. However, in the longer term, the development of MW-scale reactors or other power system architectures may permit a very large volume of material to be processed thermally for both construction material and volatile extraction, making a large, permanent human presence on the Moon more easily realisable.

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