NASA’s goal is to develop, deliver, and demonstrate on-demand capabilities to protect astronauts and create infrastructure on the lunar surface via construction of landing pads, habitats, shelters, roadways, and blast shields using lunar regolith-based materials.
ICON Build is the primary commercial developer of critical technology. There is support from four NASA labs, the US air force, six universities and several other contractors and researchers. The current plan is to send the first technology demonstrator to the moon by 2026.
Icon has a $57.2 million NASA contract to research lunar construction research and development. Designs commissioned by Icon and created by the Bjarke Ingels group envision a collection of torus, doughnut-shaped structures with hard outer shells that could protect a four-person crew from meteorites, moonquakes, radiation, and rapid temperature swings.
NASA plans to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2025 through the initial Artemis missions. NASA and its international partners plan to establish a sustainable long-term presence on the lunar surface and build up infrastructure in the subsequent Artemis missions. The Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative (LSII), within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, aims to spur the creation of novel technologies needed for lunar surface exploration and accelerate the technology readiness of key systems and components. The primary thrust areas of LSII include sustainable power; dust mitigation; in-situ resource utilization; surface excavation, construction, and outfitting; and extreme access/extreme environments.
The Moon-to-Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technology (MMPACT) project was initiated to address the lunar surface construction thrust area of LSII. The goal of the MMPACT project is to develop, deliver, and demonstrate on-demand capabilities to protect astronauts and create infrastructure on the lunar surface via construction of landing pads, habitats, shelters, roadways, berms and blast shields using lunar regolith-based materials. The MMPACT project is leveraging technology derived from NASA’s 3D Printed Mars Habitat Challenge along with contributions from other Government agencies, and multiple partners within industry and academia. The MMPACT project is comprised of three interrelated elements, construction hardware and process development; feedstock materials development; and microwave structure construction capabilities. These elements are working together to address the multiple challenges of infrastructure construction on the surface of the Moon including increased autonomy of operations, hardware operation and manufacturing under lunar environmental conditions, long-duration operation of mechanisms and parts, scale of construction activities, and material and construction requirements and standards.
MMPACT is structured into three interrelated elements:
- Olympus Construction Hardware Development
- Construction Feedstock Materials Development
- Microwave Structure Construction Capability (MSCC)
- Develop and demonstrate additive construction capabilities for various structures as materials evolve from Earth-based to exclusively In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)-based.
- Develop and demonstrate approaches for integrated sensors and process monitoring in support of in situ verification & validation of construction system and printed structures.
- Test and evaluate Olympus and MSCC products for use in the lunar environment.
- Validate that Earth-based development and testing are sufficient analogs for lunar operations