A Greater Sudbury mining innovation company is getting to literally take some of its equipment out of this world.
Deltion Innovations Limited is in the process of developing a drill for the Canadian Space Agency and the goal is to have the drill mine for water and ice on the moon.
CEO Dale Boucher said the drill is being developed in the company's test facility in Capreol.
Testing is being done by using a liquid nitrogen tank that is used to cool down the sample, filled with simulated moon dirt and water, he said.
This test phase involves trying to drill through material at liquid nitrogen temperatures — about minus 180 degrees Celsius.
"The moon is a little bit cooler than that," he said. "The moon is actually about minus 220 Celsius."
Benefits of space mining
Boucher said the prospecting tool will look for water and ice near the south pole of the moon.
"Water is kind of the ore of choice for space mining right now," he said.
"Water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen using a very simple solar cell system. So, if you break it into hydrogen and oxygen you have a couple of things: you have oxygen to breathe, you have hydrogen and oxygen which is the most powerful rocket propellant that we know of."
Boucher said if water can be mined on the moon, it can be used for space missions.
He said cost is the main benefit, adding as an example, if one litre were to be sent to the international space station from earth, it would cost about $10,000 to get it there.
The solution to save on costs? Using water from the moon instead, he said.
"You now have an ability to refuel much smaller rockets. It costs you less to go to Mars … to go to asteroids," he said.
The drill being developed is light in weight as well, Boucher said.
He said the drill weighs about 20 kilograms and it will run on solar power.
Simulation testing will be done later this year in Cleveland, he said.
"It's sometimes much easier to take a miner and teach them how to become space smart as to take an aerospace guy and try and teach him how to be a miner," he said.
"I think Sudbury has a good opportunity to take advantage of this new economic sector. I think Canada has always been a world leader in mining and it has an opportunity here to lead the world into mining off the planet."