Off-Earth manufacturing symposium: how to build a new home in space

Enabling & Support

11/11/2021 244 views 10 likes

For long-term stays on the Moon and Mars, we would need to use local materials to build on location. Off-Earth manufacturing could be used to construct infrastructure that meets needs such as shielding crews and equipment from radiation, providing food and water, and generating electricity.

This year, ESA’s Discovery programme has been supporting groups from industry and academia to develop technologies for off-Earth manufacturing. On 23 November, a public online symposium will present their latest results and consider which technologies are most promising for maturing further towards integration into future space missions.

Artist’s impression of a Moon base under construction

“Human exploration of the Moon and Mars is at the forefront of our minds, and space agencies are working on missions that would enable long-duration stays,” explains Advenit Makaya, advanced manufacturing engineer at ESA. “Now we should consider which technologies we need to develop to build the infrastructure required for sustainable stays on other planetary surfaces.”

“If we can find ways to manufacture long-term infrastructure in the difficult environment of space, we may be able to apply similar techniques to build more sustainable infrastructure here on Earth.”

 

The 23 activities that ESA’s Discovery programme is supporting came out of an Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP) campaign for ideas for technologies that could enable off-Earth manufacturing and construction. By providing both funding and technical expertise to help teams build upon their initial ideas, the Discovery programme is engaging with innovative researchers and helping young space companies enter an emerging field of space technology development.

“ESA’s Discovery programme is exploring the initial steps of future space markets and supporting innovative European industry to prepare for these markets,” explains Leopold Summerer, head of ESA’s Advanced Concepts and Studies Office. “Part of this means supporting companies that are not traditionally involved in space technology development; several of the selected activities will be implemented by start-ups that see a business case in space beyond the institutional stakeholders.”

Some of the topics that the ESA Discovery activities are seeking to address

“The symposium will involve presentations from the activities as well as from ESA technology programmes and external partners,” says Advenit. “We will discuss current technological hurdles and exchange on ways to overcome them.”

“A big focus for the symposium is to encourage cross-fertilisation between the ongoing activities and encourage a community to develop around off-Earth manufacturing technologies. We hope that this will be a step towards supporting this field of research which is seeing more and more activity in Europe.”

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