A real “regolith-race” is starting to take shape as humanity prepares to go back to the Moon to stay with the Artemis and subsequent missions. Specialist ceramic AM company Lithoz demonstrated high-resolution 3D printing with regolith, the Lunar soil (made of various ceramic minerals and metals), for an ESA project. Redwire, the company that acquired Made in Space, is kicking it up a notch, by demonstrating regolith 3D printing in the zero-G environment of the International Space Station.
Redwire is emerging as a leader in mission-critical space solutions and high-reliability components for the next generation space economy. In the past Redwire had already demonstrated in-space ceramic 3D printing using the Ceramic Manufacturing Module (CMM) to manufacture a ceramic part using pre-ceramic resins and stereolithography technology.
The company is now launching a new hardware to the International Space Station (ISS) that will demonstrate additive manufacturing processes using lunar regolith simulant. This demonstration is critical to advancing the ability to develop a permanent presence for humankind on the Moon using in-situ resources. This will be the first time that lunar regolith simulant has been used for 3D printing in space. The mission is currently set to launch onboard Northrop Grumman’s 16th commercial resupply mission (NG-16) no earlier than 5:56 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 10, from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
“At Redwire, we are developing versatile, autonomous manufacturing capabilities that will maximize in-situ resources and enable robust construction on the lunar surface,” said Michael Snyder, Chief Technology Officer of Redwire. “The Redwire Regolith Print (RRP) mission is an important step for proving these advanced manufacturing processes and ultimately accelerating NASA’s exploration timeline to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon.”
RRP is a technology demonstration mission, developed in partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The mission will demonstrate autonomous, on-orbit 3D printing with regolith feedstock material using Redwire’s Additive Manufacturing Facility currently aboard the ISS. Redwire will launch three custom-design 3D printing heads and three print bed surfaces on NG-16 to support RRP’s on-orbit operations.
The objective of this mission is to successfully demonstrate the manufacturing process capability (3D printing of a regolith-laden simulant material) in microgravity. Upon successful print operations, the material samples will return to Earth for scientific analysis.
The RRP mission will advance NASA’s efforts to develop critical in-situ resource utilization capabilities for the Artemis program and will help determine the feasibility of using resources available on the Moon as the raw materials for on-demand construction of housing and other structures. RRP technology is ultimately intended to manufacture infrastructure and mission hardware on the lunar surface using local materials, thus reducing launch mass for future Artemis missions. Construction applications include landing pads, foundations, roads, habitats, and habitat furnishings.