NASA launch US$2.25m challenge to 3D print space homes

18 May 2015

Once again, NASA is calling on the public to help them develop future space tech and is offering US$2.25m to entrants to build 3D printed designs for future space habitats.

Having just recently launched a competition asking for the public to come up with innovative solutions to living sustainably on Mars, NASA are now looking to solve the issue of how exactly future space explorers will be able to land on a planet and easily construct a new habitat.

Called simply the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, it will be a part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges programme designed to advance the additive construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond.

3D printing technology is regularly seen as the most affordable and feasible technology to allow astronauts to create their own components and technology in space, rather than relying on shipping heavy and expensive parts from Earth each time.

In November last year, news was made following the first 3D printed device (a wrench) being created in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS) which proved successful in testing.

Much like the wrench, much larger objects, including habitation, could one day be used as future space homes.

NASA Habitat Challenge

Recyclable materials a key factor

According to NASA, the first phase of the competition starting on 27 September will call on participants to develop state-of-the-art architectural concepts with the top 30 concepts going before a judging panel with the winner receiving US$50,000.

While the next two phases will look to take that concept with The Structural Member Competition (Level 1) focusing on the fabrication technologies needed to manufacture structural components from a combination of indigenous materials and recyclables, or indigenous materials alone. The On-Site Habitat Competition in the second level challenges competitors to then fabricate full-scale habitats using indigenous materials or indigenous materials combined with recyclables.

“The future possibilities for 3-D printing are inspiring, and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration,” said Sam Ortega, Centennial Challenges program manager. “This challenge definitely raises the bar from what we are currently capable of, and we are excited to see what the maker community does with it.”

NASA space base image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic