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

Additive manufacturing of life support system components using the Moon’s resources could greatly benefit lunar colonization and commercialization. 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.

Photos of parabolic flight campaign

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

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. 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.

Technology Maturation

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
  • 2 Parabolic

Development Team

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