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URBAN – Conceiving a Lunar Base Using 3D Printing Technologies

January 2018 – November 2018

European Space Agency


LSG team
Waltraut Hoheneder, Barbara Imhof, Bob Davenport, René Waclavicek, Molly Hogle

In collaboration with the ESA competiton: What’s your idea to 3D print on the Moon to make it feel like home?

The opening date of the competition is 20 July 2018 and the closing date is 23 September 2018, which is open to all ages and nationalities. Two winners will be chosen, one in the under 18 category and one in the Adult category, by the consortium members and ESA engineers.

ESA has awarded the study “Conceiving a Lunar Base Using 3D Printing Technologies” to the URBAN Consortium comprising of COMEX, LIQUIFER Systems Group and SONACA Space GmbH under the lead of OHB System AG. The team will evaluate the feasibility and implementation effort of using Additive Layer Manufacturing in the construction, operations and maintenance of a lunar base.

Logistics remains as one of the major constraints in long-term human space missions. Space agencies have shown great interest in the utilization of lunar resources as the next logical step in implementing a global strategy for human exploration of the solar system. The key to any sustainable presence in space is the ability to manufacture in situ, and on-demand the structures, items and replacement parts that are required. The production of goods locally reduces the cost and volume of long-duration missions.

Additive layer manufacturing is a potential solution because it reduces the lead time from design to implementation, and manufacturing waste due to the recyclability of in situ materials. The URBAN study performs two parallel surveys looking into the capabilities of the additive layer manufacturing technique to meet set goals.

One is concerned with the identification of hardware parts required for a permanent human-tended lunar base, ranging from large-scale permanent infrastructures to smaller on-demand items. The feasibility of 3D-printing these different elements are investigated.

The other survey includes an analysis of state-of-the-art additive layer manufacturing technologies and an assessment of their capacity to 3D-print several materials such as metals, polymers, ceramics, concrete, food ingredients, and living tissues. An objective of the project is to explore the possibility of recycling elements that have become obsolete in a lunar station of the future, by using them as printing material for the construction of new objects. While such technology is primordial for the construction of a lunar base in the future, ESA and the URBAN consortium foresee terrestrial spin-offs for the project.


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featured photo: Bruno Stubenrauch
visualisation above: project RegoLight, LIQUIFER Systems Group, 2018