NASA awards $57.2m to Texas biz for 3D printing Moon base • The Register

NASA has awarded a $57.2 million contract to ICON, a Texan 3D-printing startup, to construct “space-based building programs” on the floor of the Moon.

Future astronauts will in the future reside and work on the Moon and NASA is planning to construct infrastructure that may allow crews to outlive and help themselves sustainably. They should assemble their very own instruments utilizing lunar assets, to allow them to develop their very own meals, talk with Earth, and discover deeper into the Photo voltaic System.

Enter Venture Olympus. ICON has been tasked with constructing a machine that may 3D print massive scale constructions, like touchdown pads, blast shields, and roads on the Moon. The six-year, near-$60 million contract will help the corporate’s efforts to analysis and develop the best way to construct the Olympus building system and use in situ supplies on the Moon. 

“To alter the house exploration paradigm from ‘there and again once more’ to ‘there to remain,’ we’ll want strong, resilient, and broadly succesful programs that may use the native assets of the Moon and different planetary our bodies”, Jason Ballard, ICON’s co-founder and CEO, mentioned in an announcement. “The ultimate deliverable of this contract will likely be humanity’s first building on one other world, and that’s going to be a fairly particular achievement.”

ICON has already constructed Vulcan, a home-sized 3D printer, able to printing parts used to assemble homes within the US and Mexico. Olympus, nonetheless, will likely be a way more difficult system to construct. Not solely will ICON want to combine a brand new malleable and powerful 3D-printing materials made out of lunar regolith, its system may even want to have the ability to function in lunar gravity.

“With a purpose to discover different worlds, we want modern new applied sciences tailored to these environments and our exploration wants,” mentioned Niki Werkheiser, director of know-how maturation in NASA’s Area Know-how Mission Directorate. “Pushing this improvement ahead with our business companions will create the capabilities we want for future missions.”

To ensure that gadgets printed by Olympus to be sturdy, they might want to survive and function in excessive temperatures, and be protected in opposition to radiation and collisions with micrometeorites. ICON plans to check its {hardware} and software program by way of a lunar gravity simulation flight, and will likely be experimenting with lunar regolith samples introduced again from earlier Apollo missions to check their mechanical properties. 

One in all its creations for NASA will likely be put to the check earlier than Olympus. ICON 3D printed Mars Dune Alpha, a 1,700-square-foot simulated Martian habitat, that will likely be used throughout NASA’s Crew Well being and Efficiency Analog (CHAPEA) mission subsequent yr. Astronauts will reside inside Mars Dune Alpha and conduct mock spacewalks mimicking working situations on Mars, while staying on Earth inside ​​NASA’s Johnson Area Heart. ®

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