Mars Colony in situ resource utilization: An integrated architecture and economics model

Research paper by RobertShishko(Principal Systems Engineer/Economist, Project Systems Engineering & Formulation Section)a, RenéFradet(Director, Engineering and Science Directorate)a, SydneyDo(Systems Engineer, Project Systems Engineering & Formulation Section)a, SerkanSaydam(Associate Professor and Research Director, School of Mining Engineering)b, CarlosTapia-CortezPh.D.(Graduate Student)b, Andrew G.Dempster(Director, Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER))c, JeffCoulton(Senior Lecturer)d

Indexed on: 05 Nov '17Published on: 01 Sep '17Published in: Acta Astronautica


This paper reports on our effort to develop an ensemble of specialized models to explore the commercial potential of mining water/ice on Mars in support of a Mars Colony. This ensemble starts with a formal systems architecting framework to describe a Mars Colony and capture its artifacts' parameters and technical attributes. The resulting database is then linked to a variety of “downstream” analytic models. In particular, we integrated an extraction process (i.e., “mining”) model, a simulation of the colony's environmental control and life support infrastructure known as HabNet, and a risk-based economics model. The mining model focuses on the technologies associated with in situ resource extraction, processing, storage and handling, and delivery. This model computes the production rate as a function of the systems' technical parameters and the local Mars environment. HabNet simulates the fundamental sustainability relationships associated with establishing and maintaining the colony's population. The economics model brings together market information, investment and operating costs, along with measures of market uncertainty and Monte Carlo techniques, with the objective of determining the profitability of commercial water/ice in situ mining operations. All told, over 50 market and technical parameters can be varied in order to address “what-if” questions, including colony location.