NASA Award Funds Development of Martian Atmosphere Scroll Compressor

To investigate using mechanical CO2 in the Mars environment, Air Squared will use Phase II SBIR funding to develop a Martian Atmosphere Scroll Compressor (MASC).

Single-Stage Spinning Martian Atmosphere Scroll Compressor (MASC) Concept Rendering

Single-Stage Spinning Martian Atmosphere Scroll Compressor (MASC) Concept Rendering

Broomfield, CO — The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded Air Squared Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding to further develop its technology for In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) processes by collecting, separating, pressurizing, or processing gasses from the Mars atmosphere. The award follows a Phase I SBIR award where Air Squared developed two Martian Atmosphere Scroll Compressor (MASC) prototypes, as well as work by Air Squared on the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), which will send an Air Squared scroll compressor to Mars on the 2020 rover mission.

Dealing with the low pressures of the Martian atmosphere, the MASC will function like a vacuum pump by utilizing Air Squared scroll compressor technology. The MASC will have substantial advancement over state-of-the-art positive displacement mechanical compression technologies in size, weight, and power (SWaP), and will operate at a much lower speed than high-speed turbo-compressors thereby increasing reliability. Additionally, the MASC has a high tolerance for dust (particulate below 50μm), robustness to harsh environments, and includes an integrated filter on the suction to remove dust and particulate before entering the compressor. The MASC only requires electric power (not thermal) and will utilize near-adiabatic compression to maintain high discharge temperature.

With Phase II SBIR funding from NASA, Air Squared will pursue three MASC prototypes and investigate the scalability and reliability of mechanical compression over 10,000 hours of autonomous operation in the Mars environment. All three prototypes will be designed, fabricated, and tested using a closed-loop performance and endurance test stand. After all three prototypes have been evaluated for SWaP and reliability, one will be chosen for further optimization, as well as additional environmental, thermal, shock and vibration testing.


Air Squared is the industry leader in oil-free scroll design and manufacturing. By introducing a simple design with fewer moving parts, scroll technology has established itself as a highly efficient, very reliable, cost-effective alternative. Through a growing line of compressors, vacuum pumps, and expanders, Air Squared makes the many advantages of oil-free scroll technology available to OEMs worldwide.

This material is based upon work supported by a Phase II SBIR award by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the topic: Mars Atmosphere Acquisition, Separation, and Conditioning for ISRU (H1.01). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.