Conceiving a lunar base using 3D-printing technologies

January 2018 – November 2018
European Space Agency (ESA) general study

 Logistics remains as one of the major constraints in long-term human space missions. Space agencies have shown great interest in the utilization of lunar resources as the next logical step in implementing a global strategy for human exploration of the solar system. The key to any sustainable presence in space is the ability to manufacture in situ and on-demand structures, items and replacement parts that are required. The local production of goods reduces the cost and volume of long-duration missions.

Project URBAN evaluates the feasibility and implementation effort of using Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) in the construction, operation, and maintenance of a lunar base. ALM is a potential solution because it reduces (1) the lead time from design to implementation, and (2) manufacturing waste due to the recyclability of in situ materials.

The URBAN study performs two parallel surveys:
One concerned with the identification of hardware parts required for a permanent human-tended lunar base, ranging from large-scale permanent infrastructures to smaller on-demand items, and the feasibility of 3D-printing these parts.

The second, an analysis of state-of-the-art additive layer manufacturing technologies and an assessment of their capacity to 3D-print several materials such as metals, polymers, ceramics, concrete, food ingredients, and living tissues. Recyclability of materials used in a lunar mission is explored, including flight hardware that has become obsolete on the lunar landing surface.

Fifty-two ALM processes are identified and analysed, of which four are selected as recommendation for further advancement. These include Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM), Fibreoptic Solar Concentrator / Solar Sintering, Fused Filament Fabrication, and Lithography-based Ceramic Manufacturing (LCM).

PROJECT COMPETITION 2018 – a collaboration between Project URBAN and ESA
What’s your idea to 3D-print on the moon to make it feel like home?

Consortium partners  OHB System – Germany / COMEX – France / LIQUIFER Systems Group – Austria / SONACA Space – Germany

LIQUIFER team   Waltraut Hoheneder, Barbara Imhof, Bob Davenport, René Waclavicek, Molly Hogle

Image credit: URBAN