AI SpaceFactory wins NASA 3D Printing Challenge
Multi-planetary architecture agency plans to bring space-driven technology back to Earth.
Multi-planetary architectural and technology design agency AI SpaceFactory has been awarded $500,000 by NASA for the successful construction of its Mars habitat MARSHA.
The competition required teams to design and build a habitat for a crew of four astronauts on a mission to Mars using structural principles and construction techniques enabled by 3D printing technology.
The 15-foot-tall prototype of MARSHA, which is described by AI SpaceFactory as an “airy, multi-level environment filled with diffuse light,” includes three robotically placed windows.
The 1:3-scale prototype was printed in front of a live audience at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, during the final phase of NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.
The New York-based agency, which builds for both Earth and space, made the final shortlist of five finalists from the international competition and was announced as the winner from more than 60 challengers.
AI SpaceFactory was honoured for the automation of its print, which was completed with nearly no human assistance in 30 hours, as well as its use of biopolymer basalt composite, a biodegradable and recyclable material derived from natural materials found on Mars.
Martian polymer outperforms concrete
The “Martian polymer” can be made from matter found or grown on Mars and was validated by a third-party lab as proven to outperform concrete in every important way: superior tensile and compressive strength, extreme durability in freeze-thaw cycles, and enhanced ductility.
The polymer also provides superior cosmic radiation absorption and thermal resistance (insulation) and can be made without water: essential characteristics in the construction of off-world habitats.
After withstanding NASA’s pressure, smoke and impact testing, the material was found to be stronger and more durable than its concrete competitors.
Lex Akers, Dean of the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology at Bradley University, said: “It’s light, and it’s strong, like an airplane. That’s going to be very important for these types of habitats.”
Transforming the way we build on Earth
After spending two years developing construction technologies for Mars, AI SpaceFactory plans to bring its space-driven technologies back to Earth. It plans to recycle the materials from MARSHA and re-use them to 3D print TERA, the first-ever space-tech eco-habitat on Earth.
"We developed these technologies for space, but they have the potential to transform the way we build on Earth,” said David Malott, CEO and Founder of AI SpaceFactory.
“By using natural, biodegradable materials grown from crops, we could eliminate the building industry’s massive waste of unrecyclable concrete and restore our planet.”
The first building of its kind, TERA is expected to launch on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo this month and will be available to anyone wanting to experience what sustainable life might be like on Mars. It will emphasise the need for new, renewable construction technologies on this planet, while researching what’s needed to enable life on a new one.