Above: A 12” x 12” sintered basalt tile created at PISCES was tested as a launchpad material last month. Photo: Masten Space Systems.
Last month a sintered basalt tile made at PISCES underwent preliminary testing as a launch and landing pad base material. Masten Space Systems in Mojave, California conducted the test, subjecting a 12” x 12” x 1” basalt tile to a two-second rocket burst fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid methane. Positioned 20 cm from the tile, the burn produced 100 pounds of thrust at 2,550 K. The tile cracked under the intense heat and pressure (pictured right), but the results show promise. Cracking could be prevented in future tests by manufacturing a thicker tile.
PISCES plans to further pursue testing of its basalt tiles for launchpad applications and hopes to develop a highly durable ISRU (In-Situ Resource Utilization) material to withstand the infernal temperatures and powerful force of rocket engines. If successful, the same sintering methods could be used on the moon to build lunar launch and landing pads. These pads would help mitigate the spread of the abrasive, statically charged lunar dust that poses problems for spacecraft systems, instruments and spacesuits.