Air Liquide will supply an essential component to the German Aerospace Center (DLR), as part of the LUNA Energy Project.
The Tier One company signed an agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the DLR at the beginning of the month.
ESA is about to establish a lunar analogue (LUNA) next to the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany. This analogue will consist of a ~1,000m2 simulated lunar regolith area (to represent a typical lunar surface), a moon base/habitat, where astronauts live and work, and an energy facility, which supplies this moon base/habitat with electricity.
As part of the agreement, Air Liquide will supply a fuel cell that will, together with an electrolyser provided by the DLR, produce energy for the analogue of the lunar base. The fuel cell and electrolysis unit combined will produce electricity.
The energy facility is a key element of LUNA. It will - like for a facility on the moon - exploit solar energy, which needs to be stored in order to be available also at times when the sun is not shining.
Lunar days and nights each last about two weeks. One way of storing solar energy is to produce hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) by way of electrolysis of water. This H2 and O2 can be stored and later be transformed back into energy (and water) by using a fuel cell.
“This project is in the continuity of Air Liquide’s involvement in the space adventure, keeping its pioneering spirit, and helping overcome major international challenges related to space, in particular in the field of space exploration,” the French company explained. “Being part of the LUNA project, used to prepare and demonstrate technologies and operations for human exploration of the moon, is a fascinating challenge.”