AEROSPACE GLOBAL NEWS

ICON Receives NASA Funding to Develop 3D Printed Moon Infrastructure

ICON Project Olympus

Project Olympus aims to develop 3D Printed Moon Infrastructure as it received funding from NASA under its Artemis Program

ICON Project Olympus
Above: ICON’s Project Olympus/Image Source: ICON

ICON, a firm working on 3D printed construction, revealed that it has been awarded a government Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract including funding from NASA. The contract relates to the development of 3D printed moon infrastructure that could support future exploration of the Moon.

With this contract, ICON has initiated ‘Project Olympus’ and the ‘Olympus Construction System’ in addition to dedicating a division of the company to focus on space.

Revealing some details, Jason Ballard, Co-founder and CEO of ICON said, “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. 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.”

NASA’S ARTEMIS PROGRAM

NASA Artemis program
Above: NASA’s Artemis program/Image Source: NASA

NASA’s Artemis program aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Mooon by 2024. This program will form the base for learning to take the next giant leap wiz, sending humans on Mars.

Through this program NASA wants to develop Moon as its first off-earth site for sustainable surface exploration which emphasizes mobility to allow astronauts to explore more and conduct more science. 

But to achieve any kind of permanent presence on the lunar surface, robust structures will need to be built 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.

PROJECT OLYMPUS: 3D PRINTED MOON INFRASTRUCTURE

Above: ICON’s Project Olympus/Video Source: ICON/YouTube

With the contract and funding, ICON has initiated its Project Olympus to work on 3D printed moon infrastructure. ICON is known for its advanced 3D printing technology in infrastructure construction. Considering this, the company has been awarded with the 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. 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.

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. SEArch+ has over a decade-long association with NASA’s Johnson Space Center Human Habitability Division, Langley Research Center, Ames Research Center and leading aerospace corporations, and BIG has worked on multiple concepts for the Moon and Mars in the past several years.

3D Printed Moon Infrastructure
Above: ICON Project Olympus Concept render by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group/Image Source: ICON

According to Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, “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. 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.”

3D Printed Moon Infrastructure
Above: ICON Project Olympus Concept render by SEArch+/Image Source: ICON

Co-founders from SEArch+ commented, “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. 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.”

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.

About ICON: ICON develops advanced construction technologies that advance humanity. Using proprietary 3D printing robotics, software and advanced materials, ICON is shifting the paradigm of homebuilding on Earth and beyond.


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