Space architecture firm releases designs for NASA lunar outpost

As NASA prepares for a manned mission to the Moon, designs for a lunar outpost have been released by space architecture and technology firm AI SpaceFactory. Developed in collaboration with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the designs will be used to 3D print LINA, the first-ever lunar outpost, which will be located at the South Pole of the Moon.

The design and testing of LINA is part of NASA’s 2020 Collaborative Opportunity Announcement (ACO) project, Additive Construction Technology for Relevant Environment (REACT), through which AI SpaceFactory and NASA KSC advance the award-winning technologies and materials that SpaceFactory created for NASA 3D. Printed habitat challenge.

To adapt to the lunar environment, AI SpaceFactory’s original polymer made with a Martian regolith simulant was modified to use lunar regolith, or lunar soil. Its composite material and mechanical extruder will be tested in a NASA vacuum chamber that simulates environmental conditions on the Moon. The test results will inform a durable 3D printing system capable of building large structures on the surface of the Moon.

“Our MARSHA Mars habitat prototype has proven that 3D printing with a polymer composite is a solid solution for off-world habitation,” said David Malott, CEO of AI SpaceFactory. “The development of LINA and printing in an environment free of atmospheric pressures or weather systems advances this technology into a new context, with new, more precise variables.”

LINA will be built by autonomous robots on the Moon’s south pole near Shackleton Crater, where near-continuous sunlight on the crater’s peaks could allow solar power, while perpetual shadow inside the crater would allow the harvesting of water ice.

The outpost’s 3D-printed Romanesque arches, which can withstand high compressive loads with minimal material, would be topped with 2.7 meters of lunar regolith to provide astronauts with maximum possible protection from radiation, micrometeorites, lunar seismic activity (moonquakes) and extreme thermal oscillations. The strength of AI SpaceFactory’s polymer composite will support LINA’s geometry for a durable, long-lasting structure that could support long-term habitation and further travel to more planets.

AI SpaceFactory is one of 17 companies selected by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate to participate in ACO 2020 – a cohort that includes Blue Origin and SpaceX. The project’s new lunar vacuum chamber, which will reside at NASA’s KSC Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations (GMRO) laboratory, was built and equipped with AI SpaceFactory’s 3D printing extruder and mounted on a gantry designed and manufactured by NASA. The first vacuum impressions of the collaboration are expected this year.

Image: LINA’s ultra-thin shell is designed to support a protective regolith overburden 2.7 meters thick. The result is a lightweight, mass-optimized structure that functions as a defense against radiation and the extreme lunar environment. Credit: AI SpaceFactory

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