Simulants at Mines


Regolith simulants are a staple of technology development and hardware testing for lunar, martian and asteroid applications.  But are the simulants people produce and use actually appropriate for the tasks at hand?

At the Colorado School of Mines, we’re working on a meticulous approach to developing and characterizing regolith simulants for every planetary body and for every use case.  Want to find out more?  Get in touch with Kevin Cannon (cannon@mines.edu).

Regolith Simulant Database

 We maintain the Planetary Simulant Database, the only comprehensive listing of past and present regolith simulants.

The database is updated regularly, and future plans involve expanding to include returned regolith samples, and linking the database entries to our certification system (see below).

Simulant Development

 We have prototypes of general-purpose simulants for the Moon (highlands & mare), Mars (an updated version of MGS-1), and carbonaceous asteroids.  We’re also working on a special-purpose simulant “Mooncastle” that accurately captures the extremely poor flowability of lunar regolith.

We’re building an objective certification and reporting system for regolith simulants.  Previous systems like the Figure of Merit and Fit to Use table were not user friendly: the Figures of Merit did not include recommended values to compare simulants to, and the Fit to Use tables from the Constellation Era involve simulants that are no longer available.

Our simulant certification system will take in analytical data as inputs (bulk chemistry, particle size distribution, etc.) and automatically generate easy to digest simulant report cards that highlight appropriate use cases and deficiencies.  Demos are available.

We’re building up laboratory capabilities to do all analyses in-house for certifying simulants. This includes:

  • Particle size distribution
  • 3D particle shape parameters, and size-dependent shape
  • Quantitative mineralogy and bulk chemistry
  • Grain density
  • Magnetic susceptibility

We’re also working on updating the ISO standard for lunar simulants.