Most likely, the very first resource extracted on the Moon will be ordinary water. It is planned to extract it from ice deposits in the circumpolar regions, but there is a problem – this is not pure ice, but its mixture with regolith (lunar soil-ed. Something like the earth’s permafrost, which is very difficult to open and energy-intensive. Therefore, NASA launched a competition” Break the Ice ” (Break the Ice) to collect ideas and projects on how best to implement this process.

The attention of specialists was attracted by the project” Rocket M ” from Masten Space Systems, whose engineers have developed an unusual system based on a rocket engine. Instead of drilling ice with regolith, it will be melted and vaporized by short reactive pulses, with a force of no more than 500 N and a duration of half a second. This will allow you to make a mine up to 2 m deep and extract up to 100 kg of ice.

The rocket engine runs on oxygen and hydrogen, which can be obtained from water – that is, it feeds itself. The Miner lunar rover weighs 1120 kg, is able to move at a speed of 3.45 km / h and overcome slopes up to 20°. It includes a lowered dome for sealing the mine, a set of magnetic and pneumatic cyclone filters for sifting out dust, as well as a cooler for turning water vapor back into ice, but already clean, for storage.

Testing on an artificial analogue of lunar ice showed that the Rocket M complex can process up to 12 mines per day. During the year of operation, it will be able to extract 426 tons of water almost completely offline. Additionally, the system can be reconfigured for the extraction of dry regolith – as a filler for lunar concrete, the building material of the future colony.