NASA Partners With 3D Printing Systems To Advance Lunar Explorations

Fast-Tracking Future Moon Landing

NASA is accelerating its exploration plans, now gaining momentum to once again send men to the moon. This is an exciting development since the last Apollo lunar mission was in 1972. NASA’s ambitious Artemis Program will use innovative technologies to explore more of the moon surface. It is seeking partnerships to advance additive manufacturing – its technologies, processes, and materials – to speed up the development of space capabilities. Needed to make the program successful are: a 3D printing system for the Artemis Program; better engine designs through metal AM; advanced large- scale directed energy deposition (DED) of high-strength aluminum alloys for complex rocket components, and more.

NASA has selected 17 U.S. companies so far, in order to bring to fruition these companies’ own space technologies for lunar and other explorations. It will also make possible for these entities to offer their cutting-edge systems as a service to NASA for their mutual benefit. Another reason is to help reduce the development costs of space technologies and accelerate the coming-in of emerging commercial capabilities into future missions.

The selected projects will be governed by unfunded Space Act Agreements between the companies and NASA. In fact, to support the agreements, the businesses will gain access to NASA resources, like expertise and testing facilities, that carry an estimated value of $15.5 million. NASA will work with the selected companies, from small businesses to giant aerospace corporations that will gain access to and exchange of expertise in NASA’s unique testing facilities.

Some of the selected companies that will use 3D printing technology as the basis of their projects: New Jersey-based AI SpaceFactory, an architectural and technology design firm to construct Mars habitat and develop new material that mimics lunar dirt; leading aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin based in Kent, Washington will improve rocket engine designs with metal additive manufacturing; AM research and development company Elementum 3D from Erie, Colorado, will help to increase the performance and reduce the cost of additively manufactured aluminum materials; Cornerstone Research Group of Miamisburg, Ohio, will test and evaluate slurry-based thermoset resins performance in flight-relevant environments; IN Space of West Lafayette, Indiana, will explore the use of AM to produce a regeneratively cooled engine chamber for IN Space’s rotating detonation engine. These partnerships complement NASA’s Artemis program and help prepare the agency for its future exploration endeavors.