Blue Origin claims its new method unlocks 'unlimited solar power'
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space firm, Blue Origin, announced it has developed a method for producing solar cells and transmission wire using only lunar regolith.
Blue Origin famously filed a legal complaint against NASA after it snubbed its lunar lander design in favor of awarding SpaceX a contract for a modified Starship lander.
Though that dispute was struck down, Blue Origin may play a crucial role in helping to sustain lunar habitats thanks to its latest innovation, called Blue Alchemist.
Blue Alchemist method could produce "unlimited solar power"
The Blue Alchemist method uses molten electrolysis to separate aluminum, iron, and silicon from bound oxygen in lunar regolith to extract the materials for solar cell construction. In a statement, Blue Origin points out that the technique can be used to build solar cells, cover glass, and aluminum wire. All that's required is sunlight and the reactor's silicon.
The method could prove to be a vital part of NASA's mission to establish a permanent presence on the moon as part of its Artemis program. It could dramatically cut costs associated with transporting materials to the moon while providing a robust solution; in its statement, Blue Origin says its solar cells can operate in the moon's "harsh environment" for over a decade.
Blue Origin made its announcement with surprisingly little fanfare. The company released its press statement on its website but has not shared it on social media. As Ars Technica, senior space editor Eric Berger pointed out on Twitter, "this is a stellar achievement by Blue Origin that deserves more recognition."
In its statement, Blue Origin explained that it has demonstrated its method's viability and has "been making solar cells and transmission wire from regolith simulants." The company added, "once demonstrated and implemented on the Moon, Blue Alchemist will put unlimited solar power wherever we need it."
NASA banks on Blue Origin's New Glen rocket and Orbital Reef space station
Despite Blue Origin's past legal dispute with NASA, the US space agency is backing the private space firm's Orbital Reef space station — one of several private space stations it sees as part of its succession plan for the International Space Station.
NASA also recently contracted Blue Origin's in-development New Glenn rocket to fly a science mission to Mars. The private space company's space tourism flights with its suborbital class, New Sheppard rocket, are on hold. At the same time, the Federal Aviation Authority is investigating a launch failure during a science mission last year.
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