Architecture Firm Releases Lunar Outpost Designs

THURSDAY, JULY 14, 2022


Space architecture and technology firm AI SpaceFactory has recently released design renderings for the first-ever lunar outpost, LINA.

According to reports, LINA is part of NASA’s 2020 Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO) project Relevant Environment Additive Construction Technology (REACT). AI SpaceFactory is noted to be one of 17 companies selected by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate to participate in the 2020 ACO, alongside Blue Origin and SpaceX, among others.

The architecture firm was founded by CEO David Malott in 2017 and aims to revolutionize the construction industry on Earth, as well as for long-term missions to the Moon and Mars.

About LINA

The structure, which will be 3D-printed on the Moon’s southern pole near the Shackleton crater, was designed in collaboration between AI SpaceFactory and the NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The main material for constructing the lunar outpost is an original polymer developed by the firm, created using a Martian regolith simulant, that was then modified to use lunar regolith.

Also known as lunar soil, the polymer, its material composite and mechanical extruder are slated to be tested in a NASA vacuum chamber that simulates the environmental conditions on the Moon.

Based on these results, AI SpaceFactory will be able to inform a sustainable 3D printing system that will be used to print LINA on the Moon.

“Our Mars habitat prototype MARSHA proved that 3D printing with a polymer composite was a strong solution for habitation off-world,” said Malott. “Developing LINA and printing in an environment that is void of atmospheric pressures or weather systems advances that technology through a new context, with new and more precise variables.”

According to reports, LINA will be made up of 3D-printed Romanesque arches and topped with 2.7 meters (8.86 feet) of lunar regolith. Not only will the arches be able to withstand high compressive loads with minimal material, but the lunar soil will also protect the structure from radiation, micrometeorites, lunar seismic activity (moonquakes) and extreme thermal swings.

After the construction materials have been 3D printed and compiled, autonomous robots will build LINA. Placed near the Shackleton crater for good reason, the lunar outpost will be able to harness solar power from the area’s almost continuous sunlight, while still being able to use its shadowed areas for the harvesting of water ice.

In addition, AI SpaceFactory and KSC are also advancing other prize-winning technologies and materials previously created for NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge to use on the Moon.

It is believed that the strength of AI SpaceFactory's polymer composite will support LINA's geometry for a sustainable and long-lasting structure that could support long-term habitation and further travel to more planets.

Construction on the Moon

Back in 2019, NASA announced the top three finalists for its 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. Taking first place was SEArch+ and Apis Cor, followed by Zopherous (second place) and Mars Incubator (third place).

At the time, the competition was NASA’s latest development in its mission to design suitable shelters with the future hopes of sending humans back to the moon, Mars and hopefully beyond. The challenge, which has three phases, totaled $3.2 million in prizes.

The following year, Westminster, Colorado-based space technology company Maxar Technologies was awarded a $142 million contract from NASA to develop a robotic technology capable of assembly and manufacturing whilst in orbit.

The company was previously part of NASA’s Tipping Point partnership—announced back in 2015—but now includes partners Tethers Unlimited (Bothell, Washington), West Virginia Robotic Technology Center (Morgantown, West Virginia) and NASA’s Langley Research Center (Hampton, Virginia).

In December, Bjarke Ingels Group announced a partnership with ICON, a construction technology developer, and SEArch+, to begin designing a sustainable habitat for the moon. The project—dubbed Project Olympus—aimed to produce structures that provide better thermal, radiation and micrometeorite protection than metal or inflatable habitats.

And most recently, in March of this year, NASA announced the selection of three university-led proposals for the development of technologies for living and working on the Moon. The selection of projects arrives as NASA prepares to return astronauts to space for long-term exploration with Artemis.

According to NASA, the proposals awarded for the research will look into the extraction of lunar resources, autonomous construction methods and developing electronics capable of working under the Moon's extremely cold temperatures.

Each proposal was selected under the second Lunar Surface Technology Research (LuSTR) solicitation and aims to harness the creativity of the nation's university researchers to cultivate technologies for lunar infrastructure. LuSTR is part of NASA's Space Technology Research Grants program, which supports groundbreaking research in advanced space technology by academic researchers.

Tasked with the goal of developing robots capable of completing construction projects, such as building habitats and landing pads, is The Colorado School of Mines. This effort is being led by principal investigator Christopher Dreyer, who plans to develop tools and methods for autonomous construction on the Moon's surface.

While construction will be an important aspect of staying on the Moon for long periods of time, NASA has realized that sending supplies from Earth will be expensive and time-consuming. It is that reason that they have awarded Missouri University of Science and Technology for in-situ resource utilization. For this research, led by principal investigator Leslie Gertsch, teams will work to develop magnetic and electrostatic technologies for extracting and efficiently separating calcium- and aluminum-containing minerals from the Moon's soil, also called regolith.

Another obstacle that astronauts will have to face while working on the Moon is the planet’s extremely cold temperatures, which have been reported to plummet hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit below zero at night or within cratered areas that never see direct sunlight. Auburn University, led by principal investigator Michael Hamilton, has been awarded for the development of new electronics that are highly reliable and tolerant of low temperatures.

Each team will receive up to $2 million, awarded as grants, over two years to develop their proposed technologies.

   

Tagged categories: 3D Printing; 3D printing; Architects; Architecture; Color + Design; Commercial / Architectural; Design; Design - Commercial; Designers; NA; NASA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Residential; Technology

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