NASA Awards ICON $57 Million Contract For 'Lunar Surface Construction System'

According to a press release from this morning, NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program will fund a construction site capable of building critical space exploration and dwelling infrastructure like roads, landing pads, and blast shields on the surface of the Moon. The funding recipient is ICON, a construction technology company with an emphasis on complex 3D printing.

Almost $60 million from the SBIR will be directed towards ICON's "Project Olympus," an endeavor to establish construction sites on extraterrestrial bodies — first the Moon, and eventually Mars — that utilize building materials and resources found on the surface to build up infrastructure. In the November 29 ICON press release, the company stated that the first stages of the project are simulations of the Moon's gravity, and mechanical testing of lunar bedrock samples.

"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," said ICON co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard in the release. This contract award follows up on a 2021 project for the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate where ICON developed the first 3D-printed rendering of a surface habitat on Mars.

Another Moon landing, Mars exploration in the future, NASA says

Earlier this month, NASA saw the successful test launch of the Orion spacecraft, which is venturing further into space than a vessel intended for a crew has ever gone before. The launch is part of the Artemis mission, which will notch several historical achievements in the final frontier exploration: the first woman on the Moon, the deepest manned space exploration, the fastest and hottest manned vessel reentry, and — someday — the first Mars voyage.

Projects like ICON's, which research safe planetary body habitation must happen first. The goal of Project Olympus, according to ICON, is "longer term lunar habitation," which requires development of stable, reliable protection from radiation, meteorites, and dangerous thermal fluctuations.

ICON brings an extensive list of earth-side advanced construction experience to the project, including fully-3D-printed homes and solider housing projects for the U.S. military. According to ICON, the company is working on an entire community of 3D-printed dwellings in the Austin, Texas area as well.