The Technology Transfer and Partnerships Office
RESOLVE: Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction
Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction The direct evidence of large amounts of lunar water ice and volatiles in persistently shadowed craters by the impact experiment performed by the LCROSS spacecraft and the remote sensing of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter instruments capped a decade-long quest from Clementine and Lunar Prospector to Chandrayaan and Moon Mineralogical Mapper. It changed our view of the Moon within space exploration. The Moon is now perceived as a potential reservoir of accessible and vital resources to support a space-based architecture. Volatiles detected at Cabeus crater, the LCROSS impact site may represent nearly 15% of the mass of the regolith. This includes water that may be present as ~5.6% of the regolith.

We must gain the necessary knowledge to guide future mission architectures to allow effective utilization of in-situ resources to their fullest extent and optimum benefit. The answer is to send a prospector to the surface of the moon to obtain this knowledge first hand.

RESOLVE is that prospector.

RESOLVE is an internationally developed payload that is intended to prospect for resources on other planetary bodies.

RESOLVE is a miniature drilling and chemistry plant packaged onto a medium-sized rover to collect and analyze soil for volatile components such as water or hydrogen that could be used in human exploration efforts.

Its mission is to seek answers to the following questions and meet those challenges:

Understand the resources

— What resources are there?

— How abundant is each resource?

— What are the areal and vertical distributions and hetero/homogeneity?

— How much energy is required to evolve/separate the resources?

Understand environment impact on extraction and processing hardware

— What is the local temperature, pressure, radiation environment?

— What are the physical/mineralogical properties of the local regolith?

— Are there extant volatiles that are detrimental to processing hardware or humans?

Design and utilize hardware to the maximum extent practical that has applicability to follow-on ISRU missions

— Can we effectively separate and capture volatiles of interest?

— Can we execute repeated processing cycles (reusable chamber seals, tolerance to thermal cycles)?

Mission Objectives (pre-decisional)

RESOLVE Mission-Objectives

Technology Development

The RESOLVE project, led and managed at Kennedy Space Center follows a technology development path that progressively incorporates element technologies from the laboratories, integrates them into subsystems and tests the integrated system as successive generations of the hardware in an analog environment.

RESOLVE's planned subsystems and instrument suite are the products of a strong collaboration between many NASA centers and international partner Canadian Space Agency (CSA):

  • Avionics– NASA KSC and CSA   • Software– NASA KSC and CSA
  • Mission Ops – NASA JSC   • Structures– NASA GRC
  • Thermal– NASA JSC   • Power– NASA GRC
  • Near Infrared Spectrometer – NASA ARC   • Neutron Spectrometer – NASA ARC
  • Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer – NASA KSC   • Drill (1 meter depth) — CSA (NORCAT)
  • Water droplet capture and visual transmission to Earth – NASA KSC   • OVEN for volatile heating/hydrogen reduction operations – NASA JSC


RESOLVE Generation 3 to be flight-like hardware tested in both Earth and flight environments (first field tests in July 2012)

RESOLVE 3rd Generation


RESOLVE: Ground Truth for Polar Volatiles as a Resource, W.E. Larson, M. Picard, A. Colaprete, G.B. Sanders, R.C. Elphic, IAC-11-A5.1.4, 62nd International Astronautical Congress, Cape Town, South Africa, October 2011.

RESOLVE Mission Architecture For Lunar Resource Prospecting And Utilization, J. A. George, G. W. Mattes, K. N. Rogers, D. F. Magruder, A. J. Paz, H. M. Vaccaro, R. S. Baird, G. B. Sanders, J. T. Smith, J. W. Quinn, W. E. Larson, A. Colaprete, R. C. Elphic, and T. R. Suaris, 2583, 43rd Lunar & Planetary Science Conference, The Woodlands, TX, 2012

Detection of Water in the LCROSS Ejecta Plume, A. Colaprete, P. Schultz, J. Heldmann, D. Wooden, M. Shirley, K. Ennico, B. Hermalyn, W. Marshall, A. Ricco, R. C. Elphic, D. Goldstein, D. Summy, G. D. Bart, E. Asphaug, D. Korycansky, D. Landis, L. Sollitt, Science 330, 463 (2010)