A new process potentially useful for future manned space missions in the framework of the so-called ISRU (In-Situ Resource Utilization) and ISFR (In-Situ Fabrication and Repair) concepts is addressed in this work. The final purpose is to allow manned space missions to extract and utilize in-situ resources, otherwise transported from the Earth, that are required for human survival and to utilize specific technologies to repair in-situ Lunar and/or Martian platforms. In this context, a novel recently patented process based on the occurrence of Self-propagating High temperature Synthesis (SHS) reactions for the in-situ fabrication of construction materials in Lunar and Martian environments is described. Specifically, the SHS process involves thermite-like reactions type between Lunar or Martian regolith simulants and aluminium as reducing agent. To overcome the fact that the original content of ilmenite (FeTi03) and ferric oxide (Fe203) on Moon and Mars soils, respectively, is not enough to make the SHS process possible, each soil needs to be preliminarily enriched with suitable amounts of these species. The dependence of the most important processing parameters, particularly the composition of the starting mixture, evacuation level, and gravity conditions, on SHS process behavior and product characteristics is specifically examined for the case of Lunar regolith. The optimal experimental conditions arc identified for each system investigated. In addition, all the obtained findings allows us to conclude that the optimized results obtained under terrestrial conditions arc also valid for in-situ applications in Lunar environment. In particular, parabolic flight experiments evidenced that neither SHS process dynamics nor product characteristics are significantly influenced for both Lunar and Martian systems when passing from Earth to low gravity conditions. To validate the obtained results, the optimal products are properly characterized in view of their possible utilization as building materials. Copyright © (2012) by the International Astronautical Federation.
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