Research and development of space-based construction systems to support future exploration of the Moon and beyond
In November 2022, ICON received a contract awarded under Phase III of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to continue its research and development of lunar-based construction systems. The nearly $60 million contract builds upon previous NASA and Department of Defense funding for ICON’s Project Olympus to research and develop space-based construction systems to support planned exploration of the Moon and beyond. ICON’s Olympus system is intended to be a multi-purpose construction system primarily using local Lunar and Martian resources as building materials to further the efforts of NASA as well as commercial organizations to establish a sustained lunar presence.
“To change the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back again’ to ‘there to stay,’ we’re going to need robust, resilient, and broadly capable systems that can use the local resources of the Moon and other planetary bodies. We’re pleased that our research and engineering to-date has demonstrated that such systems are indeed possible, and we look forward to now making that possibility a reality,” said Jason Ballard, ICON co-founder and CEO. “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.”
Highlighting the commonalities between advanced construction on earth and in space, ICON will continue to pioneer methods and technologies to solve some of the most vexing construction challenges facing our species from affordable housing to living on other planets. ICON’s selection for this award is a vote of confidence in the young, growing company and its mission to revolutionize the construction industry both on Earth and off.
"In order to explore other worlds, we need innovative new technologies adapted to those environments and our exploration needs," said Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. "Pushing this development forward with our commercial partners will create the capabilities we need for future missions."
NASA has signaled that, through the Artemis program, the Moon will be the first off-Earth site for sustainable surface exploration. Building a sustainable presence on the Moon requires more than rockets. For a permanent lunar presence to exist, robust structures will need to be built on the Moon that provide better thermal, radiation, and micrometeorite protection than metal or inflatable habitats can provide. From landing pads to habitats, these collective efforts are driven by the need to make humanity a spacefaring civilization.