Texas construction company plans to build on the moon using 3D printers and moon dust

An impression of what the Icon construction site on the moon will look like once finished. Picture: Icon

An impression of what the Icon construction site on the moon will look like once finished. Picture: Icon

Published Oct 18, 2023


Texas-based robotic construction company, Icon, is helping humanity expand and solidify its footprint on the moon through Project Olympus, which is a collaboration with Nasa to build a permanent and liveable structure on the moon using lunar materials.

Using 3D robotic printers, Icon and Nasa plan to use processed "moon dust" to build a structure that is able to provide its inhabitants with better thermal, radiation, and micrometeorite protection than metal or inflatable habitats can provide, the company said on its website.

Project Olympus entails the construction of permanent landing pads and live-in habitats for space explorers on the moon.

The actual time frames surrounding the construction were not stipulated, but Icon did say it was awarded the almost $60 million government contract under Phase III of Nasa’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme.

According to Nasa, phase three of the project is about funding private organisations that have made strides in space exploration.

“This final phase of our programme — which requires non-SBIR/STTR funding — focuses on commercialising or transitioning your innovative technology, product, or service into Nasa programmes, other government agencies, or the private sector,” Nasa said on its website.

Icon also said it received funding for Project Olympus from the state Department of Defense.

“We’re pleased that our research and engineering to date have demonstrated that such systems are indeed possible, and we look forward to now making that possibility a reality.

“The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement,” Icon CEO Jason Ballard said.

”In order to thrive on the lunar surface, we must learn to “live off the land” using local materials found on the moon rather than bringing building materials all the way from Earth. Olympus’ printing technology processes local lunar regolith (moon dust) into a super strong building material using only energy and then 3D-prints structures with it,” Icon said.

Director of technology maturation for Nasa's space technology mission directorate, Niki Werkheiser, said to further explore distant worlds, technology will need to adapt to their needs.

“Pushing this development forward with our commercial partners will create the capabilities we need for future missions,” Werkheiser said.