Project DEAR: Effective removal of lunar dust from space equipment

Lunar dust is a central challenge in lunar exploration. Fraunhofer EMFT is part of the DEAR research project of the European Space Agency ESA and is working with its partners specifically on the systematic development and testing of strategies for removing lunar dust from optics, mechanisms and astronautical components. Of particular interest are risk assessment, avoidance and cleaning techniques, such as the use of electric fields to remove lunar dust from surfaces.

© OeWF

Lunar dust is highly abrasive, electrically chargeable and potentially chemically reactive. Thus, it poses a high risk to the performance of hardware such as cameras, thermal controls, and solar cells. The dust can cause sealing failure and affect the optical, mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties of surfaces, including space suits. For example, reliable seals are mandatory for sample processing on the lunar surface or in airlocks. In addition, lunar dust is likely to be toxic and must therefore be avoided inside lunar habitats.

For this reason, ESA has assigned the DEAR consortium to investigate the use of e.g. electric fields to prevent and remove dust on optical surfaces, mechanisms and seals. In parallel, test infrastructure and test procedures will be developed. In a second step, breadboards for Moon applications will be designed, tested and evaluated. 

Together with Microelectronica S.A., the Fraunhofer IST, the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), Gusland Consulting , the University College Dublin and the German space technology company OHB System AG (in a consulting function) are involved in the project.  Fraunhofer EMFT is consulting the consortium on how to provide several meter long, thin and flexible substrates with microstructured electrodes. 

The project aims to systematically evaluate these risks, processes and technologies in the context of these regolith problems. The results on equipment protection and cleaning will be evaluated in lunar analog test campaigns on Earth and prepare lunar surface missions in support of crew safety and long-term exploration objectives.



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