NASA has awarded a US$57.2-million contract to ICON to develop construction technologies on future lunar outposts. This includes landing pads, habitats, and roads on the Moon’s surface. The contract between NASA and the Texas-based company runs until 2028.
“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 (STMD), in a statement.
She added that “pushing this development forward with our commercial partners will create the capabilities we need for future missions.”
The contract will support ICON’s development of its Olympus construction system. The system exists as a concept, but the company hopes to use material found on the Moon and Mars for construction.
ICON has already demonstrated its 3D printing technology as a construction method on Earth. Since 2018, the company has used industrial 3D printers to build homes in the United States and Mexico.
Last April, the company partnered with the U.S. air force and army to build barracks. It built a 158-square-metre simulated Martian habitat in Texas that will be used for NASA’s Crew Health and Performance Analog (CHAPEA) mission next year.
“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 Boulder, ICON co-founder and CEO, in a company statement.
“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.”