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BIG and ICON reveal Project Olympus to develop 3D-printed homes on the moon funded by NASA
United States Architecture News - Oct 02, 2020 - 12:37 4177 views
BIG and ICON have collaborated on a new project to start off-world construction system on the moon, which is funded by NASA, the team will also collaborate with SEArch+ (Space Exploration Architecture) on the project.
ICON, developer of advanced construction technologies including robotics, software, and building materials, announced that the company has been awarded a government Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract including funding from NASA.
The project, named Project Olympus, will begin research and development of a space-based construction system that could support future exploration of the moon. ICON will also dedicate a division of the company to focus on space.
BIG previously joined as a new investor to ICON to push the boundaries of 3D-printing technology and gain further insights, it seems it is a continuation of their collaboration for a specific project for the moon.
"To explain the power of architecture, "formgiving" is the Danish word for design, which literally means to give form to that which has not yet been given form," said Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group.
"This becomes fundamentally clear when we venture beyond Earth and begin to imagine how we are going to build and live on entirely new worlds."
"With ICON we are pioneering new frontiers – both materially, technologically and environmentally. The answers to our challenges on Earth very well might be found on the Moon," Ingels added.
NASA has signaled that, through the Artemis program, the Moon will be the first off-Earth site for sustainable surface exploration. "Building a sustainable presence on the Moon requires more than rockets," stated in a press release.
For a permanent lunar presence to exist, robust structures will need to be built on the Moon that provide better thermal, radiation, and micrometeorite protection than metal or inflatable habitats can provide. From landing pads to habitats, these collective efforts are driven by the need to make humanity a spacefaring civilization.
Known for its advanced 3D printing technology for homebuilding on Earth, ICON has been awarded a SBIR Strategic Fund Increase (STRATFI) contract through the AFVentures managed "Open Topic" process to advance the development of its 3D printing technology, advanced materials and software.
The SBIR is a competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research / Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization.
Through the support from NASA under the Air Force SBIR, ICON will continue to mature off-Earth applications for potential use for sustainable lunar missions and develop technology with shared agency benefits for Earth and space.
"Building humanity’s first home on another world will be the most ambitious construction project in human history and will push science, engineering, technology, and architecture to literal new heights," said Jason Ballard, Co-founder and CEO of ICON.
"NASA’s investment in space-age technologies like this can not only help to advance humanity’s future in space, but also to solve very real, vexing problems we face on Earth."
"We are honored to begin our research and development on ICON’s “Project Olympus” and the “Olympus Construction System," Ballard added.
In partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, ICON will test lunar soil simulant with various processing and printing technologies.
The tests will help design, develop, and demonstrate prototype elements for a possible future full-scale additive construction system that could print infrastructure on the Moon. The new partnership builds upon technology ICON demonstrated during NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge in 2018.
BIG previously unveiled plans to build world’s largest Mars simulation city in the UAE desert. Called Mars Science City Project, it was designed as "a viable and realistic model" to simulate life on the surface of the red planet.
ICON has engaged two award-winning architecture firms as partners for the audacious project: BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, renowned for their iconic international architecture and SEArch+ (Space Exploration Architecture), a company recognized on a global scale for their innovative ‘human-centered’ designs for space exploration.
"Ensuring the safety of astronauts is primary to our work at SEArch+. As architects and designers, we strive to create aspirational spaces that enrich and celebrate human life," said SEArch+ Co-founders.
"We are thrilled to support “Project Olympus” and come one step closer towards becoming an interplanetary species. 3D printing with indigenous materials is a sustainable and versatile solution to off-world construction that will prove to be vital to our future here on Earth and in Outer Space."
ICON recently completed a $35M series A round of financing led by Moderne Ventures that also included architecture partner BIG in the round.
Nearly doubling in size in the past year, the ICON team has made preparations to enter mainstream American housing, created a dedicated space program, expanded its offices to include a materials science laboratory and welcomed new team members in the fields of engineering, material science, operations and marketing.
In 2020, the Austin-based technology company will break ground on additional projects including a multi-unit mainstream housing project in Texas while continuing to deliver dignified, resilient homes for those in need.
All images courtesy of BIG and ICON