Home » Astroport wins second NASA contract to 3D-print on the moon

Astroport wins second NASA contract to 3D-print on the moon

by Sion Geschwindt
NASA backs four R&D projects for lunar construction tech  

Astroport Space Technologies has been awarded its second NASA Phase 1 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract for the construction of landing pads on the Moon.

Astroport takes moon dust or ‘regolith’ and turns it into bricks and material for 3D construction printing of lunar infrastructure.

Under the contract, Astroport and its research partner, The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), will focus on developing methods to prepare and deliver excavated regolith to Astroport’s Lunatron bricklayer system. 

Robotic bricklaying

The project will build on Astroport’s previous Phase 1 STTR-21 work on regolith melting technologies and a robotic bricklaying system for lunar construction.

The new research will develop a concept for regolith works executed by multiple machines operating autonomously or in remote control mode with step sequencing/timing to enable machine-to-machine collaboration. 

Astroport’s founder/CEO and space architect, Sam Ximenes, said: “we are pleased that NASA continues to place confidence in our team’s ability to define and develop technologies and processes for lunar infrastructure construction.

“Under this new contract, the Astroport team will continue its work on the overall construction system architecture that we have started last year.”

UTSA co-principal investigator, Dr. Ibukun Awolusi, assistant professor of construction science and management stated that “leveraging innovative technologies and systems such as those proposed in this study offers remarkable opportunities for the use of lunar materials, construction processes, and our efforts toward achieving space sustainability.”

Further reading:

The project will utilise space civil engineering expertise from the University of Adelaide’s Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources (ATCSR) in Australia. 

ATCSR is one of a handful of organisations globally that has focused on the development of space civil engineering processes for planetary construction.

John Culton, director of ATCSR at University of Adelaide, said: “ATCSR is proud to support cutting-edge US partners leading the development of critical off-Earth civil engineering processes required to return humans to the Moon, ‘this time to stay'”.

Venturi Astrolab of Hawthorne, CA, will provide consulting support for integration into the overall system architecture of their FLEX rover as a baseline robotic mobility platform operating a suite of excavation tools.  

Astroport was one of four companies that NASA recently granted funding under its Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The projects, which partner small businesses with academia, will each receive up to $150,000 (£118,753) apiece for studies lasting 13 months.

Image: An artist’s impression of the Astroport (Credit: Astroport)

Read next: Barcelona is developing a digital twin of itself using a giant supercomputer 

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