Roscsmos, a Russian space corporation, has confirmed there plans to 3D print lunar shelter using local regolith material to support long term lunar missions. This directive is similar to Nasa and the European Space Agency (ESA) plans intending to use local Lunar and Martian regolith for 3D printers on the Moon and on Mars.
Russian cosmonauts are expected to land on the Moon for the first time in 2030, according to Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin. By that time, the corporation is expected to share company with NASA which is currently targeting a Moon landing by 2024 as part of its Moon to Mars approach. The administration is expecting to use numerous 3D printing technologies.
Almost all business in space is looking at getting to Mars and extend humanity’s physical reach into the solar system, but to get there and to stay there so they can conduct research all parties involved need to have a more substantial infrastructure than they have now. One of the first steps is to re-land on the moon and build a foothold to facilitate future travels to Mars, and beyond.
As partners of the ISS Roscosmos, alongside NASA, ESA, JAXA, and CSA will conduct Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) in space and share there info with each other. The first experiment was conducted on the International Space Station (ISS), using plastic that was brought in a payload the crew was able to manufacture a small tool. More development has since been undertaken to expand 3D printing to other materials, including high performance thermoplastics, ceramics and metals.
Roscosmos’ future plans will reportedly see “the launch of construction of large-scale structures with the use of additive technologies and local resources.” It is still speculation on how this will be done, the current idea is to use a solar-powered, regolith sourcing 3D printer to construct a base on the moon.
At ESA, and multiple other research facilities have also used regolith simulant material to test their 3D printing methods. Speaking with Dr. Advenit Makaya, ESA Advanced Manufacturing Engineer in Materials and Processes, current efforts in on-site space fabrication may be more conservative than the agencies would have us believe. “In the distant future, I’m not as optimistic as Elon Musk,” Dr. Makaya comments, “[…] But a foot on Mars, I think so, I hope so […] having a colony on Mars, honestly no.”
In addition, he believes that autonomy will be key to 3D printing’s success in space. “One thing about printing on a planet, is you are not going to have an [astronaut] standing next to machine pressing the buttons […],” said Dr. Makaya, “Most probably we will send the machines before we send the humans so they can print the ground for us.”
Jackson, Beau, et al. “Roscosmos Confirms Plans to 3D Print Lunar Shelters from Moon Dust.” 3D Printing Industry, 8 July 2019, 3dprintingindustry.com/news/roscosmos-confirms-plans-to-3d-print-lunar-shelters-from-moon-dust-158244/.