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 with liquid oxygen and liquid methane. Positioned 20 cm above the tile, the burn produced 100 pounds of thrust at 2,550 K. The tile cracked under the intense heat and pressure, but the overall result showed promise. Cracking could be prevented in future tests by manufacturing a thicker tile.
PISCES plans to further test its basalt tiles for launchpad applications in an effort to develop a highly durable ISRU (In-Situ Resource Utilization) material. If successful, the same sintering method could be used on the Moon to build lunar launch and landing pads. These pads would help mitigate the spread of abrasive, statically charged lunar dust which poses problems to spacecraft systems, instruments, and spacesuits.