TEL AVIV and ROCKLEDGE – Two space tech companies, Helios and Eta Space, today announced they are joining forces to solve the problem of oxygen in space. If humanity is to have a sustainable presence beyond Earth, the reusable methane-fueled rocket systems need liquid oxygen at a ratio of 1:4, so the only cost-effective solution to refueling in orbit is to create and store oxygen on the Moon and on Mars.
Helios, which is backed by the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and which recently announced funding from several venture capital firms, has developed an electrochemical reactor capable of extracting oxygen from the lunar regolith, which is made of approximately 45% oxygen. Their proprietary technology and process have proven effective and are being used terrestrially for the extraction of other elements, such as iron.
Eta Space, located on the Space Coast of Florida, specializes in the production, storage, and transfer of cryogenic propellants. Its founder and CEO, Dr. William Notardonato, worked for 30 years at NASA and is a specialist in cryogenic technologies, specifically liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
“Eta Space would play the important role of liquifying and storing the oxygen produced by the Helios reactor in cryogenic tanks,” explained Dr. Notardonato. “The two companies complement each other with their mission to reduce costs in space even further, a key step to make beyond earth presence sustainable.”
Space Florida, the aerospace and spaceport development authority for the State of Florida, and the Israel Innovation Authority, an independent, publicly funded agency created to address the needs of the local and international innovation ecosystems, recently announced the ninth-round winners of industrial research and development funding tied to the Space Florida-Israel Innovation Partnership Program.
In October 2013, Florida and Israel established a $2 million recurring joint fund to support research, development, and commercialization of aerospace and technology projects that benefit both Israel and Florida. For this Call for Projects, five teams have been selected for this ninth round of awards.
As one of the winning teams, Eta Space and Helios will leverage each other’s expertise in cryogenic and chemical engineering, to develop an integrated lunar oxygen production and liquefaction plant, a critical step toward a sustainable cislunar industry.
“In order to enable the establishment of a permanent lunar base, Helios’ technology is not enough – a whole set of technologies are required to realize the lunar economic value chain,” said Jonathan Geifman, Helios CEO and co-founder. “This new collaboration with Eta Space will for the first time connect two purely commercial links in the chain – the production and the storage of oxygen – thus making multiple and long-term missions to the moon closer to being economically viable.”