Extraterrestrial regolith can be utilized for a variety of in-situ resource utilization applications including the production of oxygen and slurry materials. These capabilities are crucial for the success of long-term missions to both the Moon and Mars. However, the processing of the regolith often depends on extracting a specific particle size. Therefore, the objective of this experiment is to establish a regolith sifting system for integration into extraterrestrial surface systems which will segregate regolith particles by size. This system is designed to operate independently of gravitational forces in order to maintain the same degree of reliability and efficiency in terrestrial, lunar, martian, asteroidal, and orbital environments. Furthermore, the sifting system will attempt to overcome the large interparticle cohesive forces of extraterrestrial regolith, while also avoiding the corrosive nature of regolith on mechanical parts. This experiment will be conducted as part of the NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program (RGSFOP).
Since traditional sifting systems rely mainly on gravity to force particles through a series of screens, a design departing from traditional terrestrial methods is needed to satisfy the criteria outlined in the experimental background. A centrifuge design has been adopted, so centripetal forces could replace gravity as the primary sifting force as shown below.
Data will be collected for three centrifuge speeds, three initial sample sizes, and 2 screen geometries. By comparing reduced gravity results to ground testing results both the dependence on gravity and overall efficiency can be determined. Although some changes were made near the end of the experiment, the TEDP report can be downloaded here, and provides all the technical details of our experiment.