NASA's future lunar base will be equipped with a novel microgrid
NASA and Sandia National Laboratories are joining forces to build a microgrid for a future lunar base, according to a statement by the latter published on Wednesday.
Called the Artemis lunar base, it will include a habitation unit (for up to four astronauts) and separate mining and fuel processing facilities. These facilities would be built far away from the base camp and would serve to produce rocket fuel, water, oxygen, and other materials needed for extended exploration of the lunar surface while decreasing supply needs from Earth.
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There will also be an electrical grid for the two units which will be connected during emergencies for resiliency and robustness. Sandia's researchers note that the electrical system controller for the habitation unit will be very similar to the International Space Station (ISS)’s direct current electrical system with some notable differences.
“There are some very important differences between something like an ISS-type microgrid to something that has the extent of a moon base,” said Jack Flicker, a Sandia electrical engineer.
“One of those differences is the geographic size, which can be problematic, especially when running at low DC voltages. Another is that when you start to extend these systems, there will be a lot more power electronics as well as a lot more distributed energy resources that will exist throughout the base. Sandia has been looking at microgrids with a lot of distributed energy resources for quite a long time" he continued.
Applicable for use on Earth
Perhaps, the greatest thing about this development however is the fact that the lessons learned from the implementation of this lunar microgrid can also be applied right here on Earth.
“Even though this work is for a microgrid on the moon, the research is also relevant to creating resiliency for communities on Earth,” Sandia electrical engineer Rachid Darbali-Zamora concluded. “I’m originally from a small town in Puerto Rico. I hope that some of the lessons that come out of this project in terms of resilience are lessons I can implement back home.”
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