Texas company wins $57 million NASA contract to develop communities on the Moon

ICON has already built a simulated Martian habitat through its partnership with the space agency. 

A new award from NASA will support ICON in developing construction technology that could be used on the Moon and Mars.

A new award from NASA will support ICON in developing construction technology that could be used on the Moon and Mars.

ICON

A Texas company has been assigned a pivotal role in NASA's mission to establish a long-term human presence on the Moon. NASA awarded Austin-based company ICON, which is best known for building 3D printed homes, a $57.2 million contract to research and develop construction technologies to help build infrastructures such as landing pads, habitats, and roads on the lunar surface, according to a news release from the space agency.

The contract runs through 2028 and will support the Artemis program, which aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 and eventually send humans to Mars. "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, in the release. "Pushing this development forward with our commercial partners will create the capabilities we need for future missions."

An illustration of ICON's Olympus, a lunar based construction system.

An illustration of ICON's Olympus, a lunar based construction system.

ICON

The new contract builds on ICONS' Olympus construction system, which is designed to use local resources on the Moon and Mars as building materials. Through its partnership with NASA, ICON has already printed a 1,700-square-foot simulated Martian habitat, dubbed Mars Dune Alpha. The space agency will use the 3D-printed habitat for a series of astronaut training missions, called Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA), that will simulate year-long stays on the surface of Mars starting next year.  

"We're pleased that our research and engineering to-date has demonstrated that such systems are indeed possible, and we look forward to now making that possibility a reality," said Jason Ballard, ICON co-founder and CEO, in a 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."

An illustration of ICON's lunar based construction system.

An illustration of ICON's lunar based construction system.

ICON

ICON plans to work with samples of lunar regolith (dusty surface material) brought back from the Apollo missions to develop construction technologies needed for the Moon. Using a lunar gravity simulation flight, the company will also test its hardware and software in support of NASA's Artemis program. "These findings will yield results that inform future lunar construction approaches for the broader space community, including critical infrastructure like landing pads, blast shields and roads," the company stated in a news release. "This technology will help establish the critical infrastructure necessary for a sustainable lunar economy including, eventually, longer term lunar habitation." 

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