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NASA seeks design concepts for 3D-printed “Space homes”

by: Steve Lowe on

NASA has launched a competition to develop 3D-printed habitations for deep Space exploration, that could be built using extra-terrestrial materials.

Two $1.1 million (£700,000) top prizes are on offer in the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, which is being run in conjunction with the US National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

NASA says the competition is intended to “ advance the additive construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond”.

The organisation adds: “Shelter is among the most basic and crucial human needs, but packing enough materials and equipment to build a habitat on a distant planet would take up valuable cargo space that could be used for other life-sustaining provisions.

“The ability to manufacture a habitat using indigenous materials, combined with material that would otherwise be waste from the spacecraft, would be invaluable.”

The competition is split into two phases. The first phase calls for architectural concepts for habitations which use 3D-printed techniques. The deadline is 27 September and a prize of $50,000 (£32,000) is on offer.

The competition’s second phase is split into two parts. One focuses on the fabrication techniques needed to manufacture the habitations and the second challenges designers to fabricate full-scale habitats. These carry awards of $1.1 million (£700,000) each. This phase of the competition will launch in September.

NASA Centennial Challenges programme manager Sam Ortega says: “”The future possibilities for 3-D printing are inspiring, and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration.

“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.”