Air Liquide signed an agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR), concerning the cooperation on the LUNA Energy Project. As part of this agreement, Air Liquide will supply a fuel cell that will, together with the electrolyser provided by the German Aerospace Center, produce energy for the analogue of the lunar base where the astronauts live.
ESA is about to establish a lunar analogue (LUNA) next to the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany. This analogue will consist of a ~1,000m2 simulated lunar regolith area (to represent a typical lunar surface), a moon base/habitat, where astronauts live and work, and an energy facility, which supplies this moon base/habitat with electricity.
The energy facility is a key element of LUNA. It will - like for a facility on the moon - exploit solar energy, which needs to be stored in order to be available also at times when the sun is not shining. Indeed, lunar days and nights last each about two weeks. One way of storing solar energy is to produce hydrogen and oxygen by way of electrolysis of water. This hydrogen and oxygen can be stored and later be transformed back into energy (and water) by using a fuel cell.
Thanks to its expertise for many years in the field of hydrogen energy, and more specifically in the design and implementation of hydrogen fuel cells, Air Liquide will supply the fuel cell, an essential component, part of the energy system with the electrolysis unit from the German Aerospace Center, to produce electricity.
This project is in the continuity of Air Liquide’s involvement in the space adventure, keeping its pioneering spirit, and helping overcome major international challenges related to space, in particular in the field of space exploration. Being part of the LUNA project, used to prepare and demonstrate technologies and operations for human exploration of the moon, is a fascinating challenge.
For more than 50 years, Air Liquide has been a major player in the field of space exploration and participated in some of the largest space international projects: the European Ariane program, satellites (Herschel, Planck, MeteoSat Third Generation in particular), and the international space station (MELFI refrigeration system).