Lakewood, CO, United States
Lakewood, CO, United States

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Patent
Pioneer Astronautics | Date: 2013-01-18

Methods and devices for generating gas from nitrous oxide are provided as well as downstream uses for the product gas. Reactor devices of the invention are compact and incorporate a novel heat-exchange/regenerative cooling system to optimize N_(2)O decomposition and reactor durability.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 749.61K | Year: 2016

The Nitrous Ethane-Ethylene Rocket with Hypergolic Ignition (NEERHI) engine is a proposed technology designed to provide small spacecraft with non-toxic, non-cryogenic, high performance, hypergolic propulsion. When passed over a warm catalyst bed, gaseous nitrous oxide and an ethylene-ethane gaseous blend combust instantly. A small 1 N thruster can be designed to provide small satellite propulsion systems with a specific impulse of approximately 300 seconds. Both propellants are self-pressurizing, capable of delivering feed line pressures in excess of 800 psi at room temperature, and 400 psi if cooled to 0?C. For longer duration missions, both nitrous oxide and an ethane-ethylene fuel blend do not require thermal heating to maintain a liquid state, and as such, can be stored on Earth or in space for in-definite periods of time with no parasitic power drain required to maintain a liquid propellant. Compared to other available chemical propulsion systems, a NEERHI system offers a cost effective solution as other hypergolic engines use hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide which are toxic and dangerous to handle, increasing ground costs. As an added capability, the NEERHI engine has the ability to operate as a monopropellant engine if the catalyst be is heated with a bipropellant reaction, increasing the lifetime of the catalyst bed and reducing heating loads on the engine. The fuel and oxidizer have nearly identical vapor pressure curves, allowing them to be stored in compact common-bulkhead tanks.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 749.57K | Year: 2016

The Carbonaceous Asteroid Volatile Recovery (CAVoR) system produces water and hydrogen-rich syngas for propellant production, life support consumables, and manufacturing from in-situ resources in support of advanced space exploration. The CAVoR thermally extracts ice and water bound to clay minerals, which is then combined with small amounts of oxygen to gasify organic matter contained in carbonaceous chondrite asteroids. In addition to water, CAVoR produces hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide that comprise precursors to produce oxygen for propellant and breathing gas and to produce organic compounds including fuels such as methane when integrated with a downstream methanation-electrolysis. Thermochemical production of hydrogen by CAVoR results in substantial reductions in electrolysis mass and power requirements compared to combustion-based volatile recovery methods. A conceptual Phase II continuous flow auger reactor design was based on successful Phase I batch reactor operations. Phase II advancements will include reactor seal designs to accommodate regolith simulant feeding and discharging while collaborations will be developed to aid the infusion of the CAVoR system into a conceptual asteroid resource utilization mission plan.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 124.88K | Year: 2015

The Nitrous Ethane-Ethylene Rocket with Hypergolic Ignition (NEERHI) engine is a proposed technology designed to provide small spacecraft with non-toxic, non-cryogenic, high performance, hypergolic propulsion. When passed over a warm ruthenium catalyst bed, gaseous nitrous oxide and an ethylene-ethane gaseous blend combust instantly. A small 1 N thruster can be designed to provide small satellite propulsion systems with a specific impulse of approximately 300 seconds. Both propellants are self-pressurizing, capable of delivering feed line pressures in excess of 800 psi at room temperature, and 400 psi if cooled to 0?C. For longer duration missions, both nitrous oxide and an ethane-ethylene fuel blend do not require thermal heating to maintain a liquid state, and as such, can be stored on Earth or in space for in-definite periods of time with no parasitic power drain required to maintain a liquid propellant. Compared to other available chemical propulsion systems, a NEERHI system offers a cost effective solution as other hypergolic engines use hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide which are toxic and dangerous to handle, increasing ground costs. As an added capability, the NEERHI engine has the ability to operate as a monopropellant engine if the ruthenium catalyst be is heated with a bipropellant reaction, increasing the lifetime of the catalyst bed and reducing heating loads on the engine.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 124.91K | Year: 2015

The Carbonaceous Asteroid Volatile Recovery (CAVoR) system extracts water and volatile organic compounds for propellant production, life support consumables, and manufacturing from in-situ resources in support of advanced space exploration. The CAVoR thermally extracts ice and water bound to clays minerals, which is then combined with small amounts of oxygen to gasify organic matter contained in carbonaceous chondrite asteroids. In addition to water, CAVoR produces hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide that comprise precursors to produce oxygen for propellant and breathing gas and to produce organic compounds including fuels and plastics. Additional CAVoR byproducts include nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus compounds that have potential uses as buffer gas for life support and reagents for more-advanced asteroid materials processing. Process residues are thermally stabilized by the CAVoR system, which renders them suitable as bulk shielding, as feed to mineral separation and concentration, or as raw material for manufacture of structural components. The CAVoR is a low-pressure, non-catalytic, batch process aimed toward maximum recovery of valuable constituents in a difficult operating environment using steel or other light-weight reactor alloys. Key elements of the CAVoR will be systematically developed and demonstrated through a progression from an Earth laboratory environment to experiments in zero-g flights and ISS with appropriate scale up and performance validations leading to implementation on a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA). Hardware designs to achieve required sealing and operating performance over long durations in microgravity will be derived in part from Pioneer's heritage in lunar and Mars ISRU. A combination of modeling and experimentation will be used to overcome the lack of current well-established state-of-the-art process methods and conditions for resource recovery from Near Earth Asteroids.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 124.95K | Year: 2014

Pioneer Astronautics proposes an advanced photocatalytic oxidation reactor for enhancing the reliability and performance of Water Recovery Post Processing systems aboard crewed spacecraft. This novel technology, called the Advanced Wastewater Photooxidation System (AWPS) is designed to oxidize and remove recalcitrant aqueous organic constituents in the water recovery post processing system under ambient temperature and pressure conditions. The basis of the innovation is the combination of high brightness and long lifetime UV LED light sources with efficient geometric illumination of a highly active photocatalyst immobilized on a high surface area support. This combined approach leads to numerous performance benefits including high conversion efficiency, low temperature and pressure operation, compact footprint, high reliability and low crew maintenance, and decreased equivalent system mass (ESM). The Phase I effort will clearly demonstrate the feasibility of these concepts by mineralization of polar water soluble organics and organosilanol constituents under long duration testing. Data from the Phase I will lead to a prototype scale-up of the device in Phase II. Development strategies for the Phase II device include component design verification testing and determining optimum reaction conditions. Long duration performance tests will validate the reactor design, and establish the technology applications in space and commercial markets.


Patent
Pioneer Astronautics | Date: 2016-07-06

A novel photocatalytic oxidation system that combines long lifetime, high-power light emitting diodes (LEDs) with efficient, visible light-activated photocatalysts for the destruction of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and other pathogens in air and water flow systems under ambient conditions of temperature and pressure is described. The technology uses the combination of visible photocatalysts with robust visible LEDs, uniform side emission fiber optics, and efficient catalyst surface illumination technologies to create a photocatalytic oxidation unit for air and water purification. This combined approach leads to numerous performance benefits including high VOC conversion efficiency, compact reactor volume, low pressure drop, and the elimination of conventional ultraviolet (UV) mercury lamp logistics and hazards.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 124.85K | Year: 2016

The Extraterrestrial Metals Processing (EMP) system produces ferrosilicon, silicon monoxide, a glassy mixed oxide slag, and smaller amounts of alkali earth compounds, phosphorus, sulfur, and halogens from Mars, Moon, and asteroid regolith by carbothermal reduction. These materials, in some cases after further processing with other in-situ resources, are used for production of high-purity iron and magnesium metals (for structural applications), high purity silicon (for photovoltaics and semiconductors), high purity silica (for clear glass), refractory ceramics (for insulation, thermal processing consumables, and construction materials), and fertilizer (from phosphorus recovered from carbothermal reduction exhaust gases). Carbothermal reduction also co-produces oxygen at yields on the order of 20 percent of regolith feed mass when integrating downstream processes to recover and recycle carbon. Many of the EMP products can be prepared in a fashion suitable for casting or additive manufacture methods and have broad application in support of advanced human space exploration. The EMP methods are based on minimal reliance on Earth-based consumables; nearly all of the gases and reagents required for processing can be manufactured from Mars in-situ resources or can be recovered and recycled for applications using Moon or asteroid resources.


Patent
Pioneer Astronautics | Date: 2015-10-23

This invention pertains to the non-catalytic oxygenated steam reforming of organic matter to produce a gas mixture rich in hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. The reforming gas is used for production of methane, methanol, dimethyl ether, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other compounds via downstream processing catalytic gas-phase processes and electrolysis. The reforming gas may also be combusted directly for electricity generation.


Patent
Pioneer Astronautics | Date: 2014-01-08

Methods and devices for generating gas from nitrous oxide are provided as well as downstream uses for the product gas. Reactor devices of the invention are compact and incorporate a novel heat-exchange/regenerative cooling system to optimize N_(2)O decomposition and reactor durability.

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