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International partnership formed to enable 3D printing on the moon

10 Apr 2024

LZH and TU Berlin partner with Astrobotic to equip lander with compact laser to process moondust.

In the MOONRISE project, researchers are working to transport 3D printing to the Moon. Laser Center Hannover (LZH) has been contracted with US-based tech firm Astrobotic for a special flight to the Moon, set to take place in late 2026.

“I am excited to announce our partnership with Astrobotic, a key player in space technology. We are thrilled to have found a partner with whom we can, in the most literal sense of the word, elevate this great project,” commented Dr. Dietmar Kracht, CEO of LZH.

Astrobotic is a lunar logistics company that provides end-to-end delivery services for payloads to the Moon, for both commercial and scientific purposes. The company secured the contract through a competitive selection process. Now the MOONRISE team is testing a key technology for future activity on the Moon.

LZH has been selected for the delivery of a key payload. MOONRISE is an example of the kinds of new ideas, new science demonstrations, and new countries that can make use of our lander delivery services to advance their own planned contributions to the burgeoning lunar economy," said Dan Hendrickson, VP Business Development for Astrobotic.

3D printing on the Moon

LZH plans to equip Astrobotic’s lander with a compact, sturdy laser as payload. This laser will melt lunar dust, known as regolith, creating 2D structures on the lunar surface. A camera will capture the process, enabling researchers on Earth to analyze it through an intelligent image processing system. Artificial intelligence will help to find a suitable location on the lunar surface for laser melting, and enable quality control of the printed structures.

As the project gears up for its lunar mission in two years, LZH continues its research on Earth in collaboration with project partner TU Berlin, focusing on optimizing the laser melting process. Researchers are experimenting with synthetic regolith produced by TU Berlin and train the AI for lunar deployment.

3D-printed Moon base

In the MOONRISE project, LZH and TU Berlin researchers are exploring ways to manufacture infrastructure on the Moon using available materials. Transporting materials from Earth to the Moon is expensive with prices of up to $ 1 million dollars per kilogram.

Directly creating landing sites, roads or buildings from lunar dust could therefore significantly reduce costs. The experiment aims to provide proof of concept that laser melting is viable on the Moon. The project is funded by the German Space Agency at DLR with funds from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action of €4.75 million. Project partners are LZH and TU Berlin.

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