Simulation Optimization of the NASA Mars Fuel In-Situ Resource Utilization and Its Infrastructure 2018-01-1963
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) current objectives include expanding space exploration and planning a manned expedition to Mars. In order to meet the latter objective, it is imperative that humans generate their own products by harnessing space resources, a process referred to as In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). ISRU will enable NASA to reduce both payload mass and mission cost by reducing the number of consumables required to be launched from Earth. The discrete-event simulation discussed focuses primarily on one ISRU system, the production of fuel for a return trip to Earth by utilizing Mar’s atmosphere and regolith. This ISRU system primarily uses autonomous rovers for exploration, excavation, processing of Mar’s regolith to produce fuel, and disposal of the processed regolith.
This study explores individual rover and component requirements including rover speeds, travel distances, functional periods, charging, and maintenance times. The interactions of these individual components are highly interdependent and was evaluated to determine how they affect the overall ISRU system behavior, other components, and system requirements. By creating a simulation, the requirements and viability of the fuel ISRU system is now able to be evaluated and analyzed as a basis for planning and designing strategies. This study then aims to optimize uptime and number of different rovers required to reduce mission cost while still meeting fuel requirements. In addition, special efforts were given to improve visuals and animations to represent the process and to better communicate the Mars fuel ISRU requirements to a variety of audiences.