Resource Prospector Drill
Water has tremendous value in space. It can support human exploration and habitation, and can also be used as fuel for surface vehicles and spacecraft. But bringing large amounts of water to space is impractical due to its weight. This is why both scientific exploration missions and commercial mining companies are exploring how to gather water for In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) applications.
Mining lunar water has attracted considerable interest to create a more self-sufficient outpost on the Moon and to create a fuel depot for deep space exploration. The Resource Prospector Drill is designed for early space prospecting efforts to gather water from the Moon. It can capture and evaluate volatile species, including water, from cryogenic solids located within the top meter of lunar regolith.
The Resource Prospector Drill captures cuttings from a depth of up to 1 meter and transfers them to an oven, where the water bakes off and can be captured for further use. The drill uses a “bite” sampling approach where samples are captured in ~10 cm intervals. This allows determination of water content as a function of depth – important data for future mining efforts.
The Resource Prospector Drill, funded by the NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems and SBIR program, has reached TRL 6 and is envisioned for early-stage prospecting of lunar water deposits.