Planetary Industrial Operations
Within space studies, the basic premise is that living and working productively is fundamentally necessary to permanent human presence in space. Central to that premise is that the initial outposts on planetary surfaces will grow to population centers in which the functions of human life must be sustained by exploitation of in situ resources. Resources must be located, extracted, and refined to produce and distribute the products needed for sustainment and growth. The development of such integrated production systems is the focus of this research area. Technology concerns in this area include, among others, extraction, material handling, and processing plant design in hostile environments. Megaproject management, risk, governance, economics, and policy are overarching concerns. Additionally, while in the early stages, several commercial interests are actively pursuing various mining concepts on the Moon and among the asteroids.
Recent student research projects have explored production system complexity, propellant depot location, and lunar oxygen production systems. Current research has turned to lunar excavation techniques and lunar infrastructure construction. Research questions abound in this area.