The association aims to build infrastructure such as landing pads, habitats and roads on the lunar surface.
A new NASA aw̳a̳r̳d will support ICON in developing construction technology that could be used on the Moon and Mars.
In a quest to find practical solutions for building sustainable structures on the moon, NASA has expanded its partnership with ICON, a building technology company based in Austin, Texas. The firm is known for building the first 3D-printed habitable house in the United States in 2018.
The space agency has now aw̳a̳r̳ded a $57.2 million contract to ICON to design solutions that “could help build infrastructure like landing pads, habitats, and pathways on the lunar surface,” according to the press release.
With a series of contracts with private players, NASA aims to complement its long-term human exploration missions to the moon under the Artemis project. “Drive this development with our commercial partners will create the capabilities we need for future missions,” Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in NASA\’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) said in a statement.
Expansion of the SBIR project
The new project comes as a continuation of ICON\’s efforts under a dual-use contract, partially funded by NASA, with the US Air Force called Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR). In its early phases, the initiative sought to expand the possibilities of 3D printing structures to be used in space missions and “explore the commonalities between terrestrial and ex̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳ applications.”
The recently aw̳a̳r̳ded SBIR Phase III will now focus on the evolution of ICON\’s Project Olympus construction system, which aims to use resources available on the lunar and martian surfaces as building materials for longer missions.
“To explore other worlds, we need innovative new technologies tailored to those environments and our exploration needs,” Werkheiser said.
Help humanity build on \’other worlds\’
The ICON project will be broadly under the scope of NASA\’s Mars Autonomous Planetary Construction Technologies Project (MMPACT) at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama Technologies.