A German company and university are working together to take 3D printing to the moon.
Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH) and Braunschweig’s Institute of Space Systems (IRAS) are part of the Volkswagen Foundation-funded MOONRISE project that aims to melt moon dust with a laser in order to create new building materials in space.
Colonizing space remains the last frontier for many firms and space agencies alike, and this calls for ultra-advanced materials and fuel to propel such missions.
The moon is of great importance as a research station and starting point for further expeditions. However, the cost of flights and transports to the moon are enormous.
According to LZH, a kilogram of loading capacity costs approximately $781,000. This calls for manufacturing new components and infrastructure directly on the Moon itself.
“We want to bring a laser system to the moon, which is supposed to melt moon dust, the so-called Regolith,” explains Niklas Gerdes from the LZH.
“We would thus take the first step to take Additive Manufacturing, that is 3D printing, to the moon.”
The IRAS and LZH team is developing a laser system that weighs no more than three kilograms and has the volume of a large juice package.
This should enable it to melt down local raw materials on the moon and convert them into versatile structures later.
Specifically, the scientists from Braunschweig and Hanover want to melt Regolith on the lunar surface in a controlled manner using their laser system.
After cooling, it is a solid body that would be suitable, for example, as a building material for the ‘Moon Village’, the vision of the global village on the moon as an outpost in space.
The targeted melting into predefined structures will be monitored and recorded with high-resolution cameras.
If the experiment succeeds on the moon, the MOONRISE process can be scaled up to produce larger structures.
The scientists are working on adapting the laser to the load compartment of the rover lunar vehicle. They plan to integrate the laser into a tunnel at the bottom of the rover.
Berlin-based New-Space company PTScientists has offered the team a unique opportunity to test their technology under real conditions when it flies to the moon in 2021.
Image and content: Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH)