Viability of in-situ Lunar Manufacturing of Life Support Systems using a Direct Writing Technique

PI: Gregory Whiting, University of Colorado - Boulder, Robert Street (Co-I), Palo Alto Research Center Incorporated

This direct writing technique for in-situ lunar manufacturing seeks to fabricate efficient, compact life support systems using multifunctional composite materials. By formulating conductive and pristine zeolite materials into paste-like inks and then co-printing them together in layers, the technology is expected to be able to create complex, multiple-material 3D devices that could, for example, remove carbon dioxide from cabin air. In order to determine the optimal implementation for these printing processes as a viable manufacturing technique for future life support applications, an assessment of printability outside of Earth's gravitational effects is essential, especially given the importance of ISRU manufacturing applications.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA06 Human Health, Life Support and Habitation Systems
  • TA07 Human Exploration Destination Systems
  • TA12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems and Manufacturing
Problem Statement

Additive manufacture of functional tools and devices such as life support systems from in-situ resources will be an essential component of reducing the cost of lunar colonization and thus commercialization of both the lunar surface as well as cislunar space. Although the printing of thermoplastics and the basic syringe-based extrusion of single function inks have been demonstrated in microgravity environments, they are incompatible in most lunar in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) applications. In addition, neither technique can offer a wide library of printable functions.

Technology Maturation

This experiment will assess effects of lunar gravity and microgravity on the direct-ink writing process using well-understood room-temperature inks. In a lunar gravity environment, it will explore the design rules for direct-ink writing and seek to demonstrate the ability to print simple components. A successful demonstration will reveal printable geometries only achievable in both lunar and cislunar gravity. It will also establish a model to constrain objective-driven device designs.

Future Customers

NASA lunar missions, including colonization
Commercial and academic use of lunar and cislunar environments
Lunar ISRU

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    TechFlights19 (Oct 2019)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 Parabolic

Development Team

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