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ICON receives NASA funding to develop lunar surface construction systems on the Moon and Mars

United States Architecture News - Dec 02, 2022 - 13:06   1063 views

ICON receives NASA funding to develop lunar surface construction systems on the Moon and Mars

Austin-based technology company ICON has received funding from NASA to develop lunar, space-based construction systems to support lunar habitation on the Moon and Mars.

ICON has been awarded with nearly $60 million contract under Phase III of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The new funding is built upon previous NASA and Department of Defense funding for ICON's BIG-designed Project Olympus project, in collaboration with SEArch+ (Space Exploration Architecture), to research and develop space-based construction systems on the Moon and beyond.

With this new funding, the company aims to build humanity’s "first-ever construction on another planetary "body".

The company's new Olympus system, aiming to be a multi-purpose construction system, seeks to primarily use local Lunar and Martian resources as building materials as defined construction materials - also targeting "to establish a sustained lunar presence".

ICON receives NASA funding to develop lunar surface construction systems on the Moon and Mars

Olympus, a Lunar Construction System proposed by ICON. Image courtesy of ICON

"To change the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back again’ to ‘there to stay,’ we’re going to need robust, resilient, and broadly capable systems that can use the local resources of the Moon and other planetary bodies," said Jason Ballard, ICON co-founder and CEO. 

"We’re pleased that our research and engineering to-date has demonstrated that such systems are indeed possible, and we look forward to now making that possibility a reality."

"The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement," Ballard added.

In support of NASA’s Artemis program, ICON aims to use its advanced hardware and software in the space via a lunar gravity simulation flight. As part of this, the company plans to work with lunar regolith samples brought back from Apollo missions as well as various regolith simulants to determine and understand their mechanical behavior in simulated lunar gravity.

The company will use these findings in results that can inform "future lunar construction approaches for the broader space community, including for critical infrastructure like landing pads, blast shields and roads." 

According to ICON, this technology will be able to help to establish a critical infrastructure which is necessary to devise a sustainable lunar economy - eventually leading a longer-term lunar habitation. 

ICON receives NASA funding to develop lunar surface construction systems on the Moon and Mars

Olympus, a Lunar Construction System proposed by ICON. Image courtesy of ICON

"In order to explore other worlds, we need innovative new technologies adapted to those environments and our exploration needs," said Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. 

"Pushing this development forward with our commercial partners will create the capabilities we need for future missions," Werkheiser added.

NASA stated that, through the Artemis program, if successful, "the Moon will be the first off-Earth site for sustainable surface exploration." 

ICON believes that to create a sustained lunar presence, there needs a robust infrastructure which can help to be built on the Moon that "provide better thermal, radiation, and micrometeorite protection." 

ICON’s development plans are based on a “live off the land” approach, prioritizing the use of in-situ / native materials found on the Moon. 

"From landing pads to habitats, these collective efforts are driven by the need to make humanity a spacefaring civilization," the company added.

ICON receives NASA funding to develop lunar surface construction systems on the Moon and Mars

Olympus, a Lunar Construction System, aerial, habitats. Image courtesy of ICON

The company, defining itself as a leader in advanced construction technologies and large-scale 3D printing, is collaborating Bjarke Ingels Group since 2020, in which BIG joined to the company as a new investor to expand knowledge and design capabilities for 3D-printed robotic homes. 

BIG and ICON's new 100-home 3D-printed community is under construction in north of Austin in the city of Georgetown. 

Mars Dune Alpha, which is another collaboration between BIG and ICON, is a 3D-printed research habitat that will be home to NASA’s crew for future missions on Mars. 

ICON is also building East 17th Street Residences, a 3D-printed multi-home project in Austin, Texas, designed by Austin-based firm Logan Architecture.

Top image: Olympus, a Lunar Construction System proposed by ICON. Image courtesy of ICON.

> via ICON 

3D printing ICON lunar lunar construction NASA