AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin 3D printing construction company is looking to the stars for it’s next big project, even after a recent fire caused damage to its building in Austin.
On Tuesday, ICON received a nearly $60 million contract from NASA to research and develop space based construction systems.
The contract builds upon previous NASA and Department of Defense funding for ICON’s Project Olympus to research and develop space-based construction systems. These systems will support exploration on the moon and eventually other planets.
“That is what project Olympus is about, using local lunar material in a multipurpose construction system to build all the major elements that we will need for a lunar outpost,” said ICON CEO, Jason Ballard. “I am excited about the progress to date and this latest contract is aimed at actually getting us on the moon and doing construction”
Working in support of NASA’s Artemis program, ICON plans to work with lunar regolith samples brought back from Apollo missions and various regolith simulants to determine their mechanical behavior in simulated lunar gravity. The company said it also intends to bring it’s advanced hardware and software into space on a lunar gravity simulation flight.
On Friday, ICON’s HQ building and lab burned in a fire, but Ballard says despite the damage this won’t impact any of their projects.
“It is a real gut punch,” said Ballard. “A lot of history was made in those buildings, it is our original HQ here, but the business will go on.”
Ballard said they did lose one test 3D printer, but no other printers were damaged as they were all out on other projects.
“To change the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back again’ to ‘there to stay,’ we’re going to need robust, resilient, and broadly capable systems that can use the local resources of the Moon and other planetary bodies. We’re pleased that our research and engineering to-date has demonstrated that such systems are indeed possible, and we look forward to now making that possibility a reality,” said Ballard. “The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement.”
The goal is to build on the moon in 2026.
Ballard said the future is bright for 3D printing on earth and in space.
“We are presently developing the next generation of printer, but I can’t say much about that, but what you should expect is bigger, faster and more capable,” said Ballard.