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Ethos Unveils Lunar Infrastructure Technology & Lunar Pad Plans

Ethos Space Resources, a lunar infrastructure startup with deep ties to SpaceX, has emerged from the shadows announcing innovative plans to address lunar infrastructure challenges.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Tue Jun 04 2024Written by Zac Aubert

Ethos Space Resources, a lunar infrastructure startup with deep ties to SpaceX, has emerged from the shadows announcing innovative plans to address lunar infrastructure challenges. The company is pioneering technology to melt lunar regolith, which will create a stable surface for spacecraft landing and takeoff while also producing liquid oxygen (LOX) for rocket propellant.

Founders with SpaceX Heritage

Two of Ethos's three founders are former SpaceX employees who played pivotal roles in the company's early development. The founders include:

  • Ross Centers (CEO): A Colorado School of Mines alumnus with a specialization in space resources.

  • Jeff Overbeek (COO): A 12-year SpaceX veteran who established the launch reliability group and contributed significantly to the development of Falcon 9 launch sites.

  • Brogan BamBrogan (VP of Customer Ops & Integration): A former SpaceX employee who was instrumental in the development of the Falcon and Dragon vehicles.

Ethos currently employs 14 dedicated professionals, all working towards making in-situ lunar resources technology a reality.

“We are starting with the very first infrastructure on the Moon, which is a landing pad, making round trip access to the Moon reliable and affordable...We will build the pad and liquid oxygen from the lunar regolith to provide a place to land.” - Ross Centers, CEO of Ethos Space Resources

Innovative Use of Lunar Regolith

Ethos's technology transforms lunar regolith into a durable, concrete-like material for constructing landing pads. During the melting process, the regolith can be electrolyzed to extract oxygen, which is then liquefied using a cryocooler. This innovative approach leverages the fact that oxygen constitutes 45% of lunar rocks by weight, with the only input required being electricity.

The company has successfully produced this concrete-like material in a $2 million simulated lunar environment and has tested it under the intense heat of a rocket engine.

“We were surprised how well it held up. We knew from lab testing that our material was stronger than concrete, but we didn’t know how it would hold up under a hot, violent rocket flame,” - Ross Centers, CEO of Ethos Space Resources

Unlike traditional concrete, which can fracture and throw off large chunks, the material self-heals when exposed to a rocket plume.

The Need for Lunar Pads and LOX

The importance of landing pads and locally-produced propellant has become a focal point for lunar exploration. With the Moon's lack of atmosphere making spacecraft landings precarious, Ethos’s pads could significantly reduce the risks associated with uneven, cratered lunar surfaces.

This need is underscored by recent missions like SLIM and IM-1, where spacecraft toppled upon landing due to the challenging terrain; and for spacecraft like SpaceX’s Starship, which has a high center of mass, a stable landing pad is crucial.

Ethos also plans to integrate navigational beacons into its pads, enhancing precision landings.

Additionally, producing LOX on the Moon could alleviate the substantial fuel requirements for round-trip missions.

“Mass to the Moon is almost prohibitively expensive right now...When you’re doing a round trip mass, that’s even more expensive because you have to bring all the fuel to get back to Earth afterward.” - Ross Centers, CEO of Ethos Space Resources

Ethos’s focus on lunar infrastructure aligns with the broader goals of the Starship Human Landing System (HLS) program.

“Starship is the most exciting thing that has ever happened in the history of spaceflight.” - Ross Centers, CEO of Ethos Space Resources

While Ethos’s technology is closely aligned with SpaceX’s needs, the company envisions broader applications with potential customers like Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander, NASA CLPS customers, and other space agencies.

“We think that there’s gonna be a great demand for pads—for everybody who’s interested in landing on the Moon,” - Ross Centers, CEO of Ethos Space Resources

To facilitate lunar operations, Ethos has partnered with Astrolab, which was recently awarded NASA’s lunar terrain contract. This partnership aims to enhance the mobility and efficiency of constructing large lunar pads.

Future Prospects

With initial testing proving successful, Ethos is now focused on scaling up its operations to meet the challenges of the lunar environment. The company plans to use Astrolab’s FLEX rover to deploy power cargo boxes and a heating trailer to melt lunar regolith, creating hardened landing pads.

As pioneers in lunar infrastructure, Ethos envisions expanding its offerings to include resources like metals, power, and water in the future. This first-mover advantage could position Ethos as a key player in the burgeoning lunar economy, making sustained lunar presence a tangible reality.