The Airbus Defence and Space-led international team has successfully demonstrated the production of oxygen using a process invented by the company.

The process is called Regolith to OXYgen and Metals Conversion (ROXY), which converts simulated lunar dust (regolith) into oxygen and metals.

The team includes scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM), Boston University and Abengoa Innovación.

The demonstration follows two years of development during a series of laboratory tests at Fraunhofer IFAM.

Airbus space system head Jean-Marc Nasr said: “This breakthrough is a massive leap forward – taking us one step closer to the holy grail of being able to sustain long-term living on the Moon.

“ROXY is proof positive that collaboration between industry and world-leading scientists can bring huge tangible benefits that will continue to push the boundaries of future exploration.”

The simple, compact and cost-efficient conversion facility is designed to support a wide range of exploration missions in the future.

The system does not require additional materials or consumables from Earth.

The emission-free ROXY process is also expected to reduce environmental impact, thereby contributing to the UN’s sustainability goals.

Abengoa aerospace division head Sonia de la Rosa said: “It has been a great opportunity to bring Abengoa’s energy background and industrial experience to help develop clean metal production processes.

“It enables the development of exciting technologies for space exploration and in-situ resource utilisation; setting the ground for integration with renewable energy production options to minimise their environmental footprint and increase their efficiency.”

Earlier this month, the European Space Agency (ESA) awarded a €491m contract to  Airbus for the Mars Sample Return’s (MSR) Earth Return Orbiter (ERO).