DARPA’s vision is to develop materials, processes and designs needed for in-space manufacturing of large structures.
WASHINGTON — The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to hear from the space industry about their capabilities to manufacture large structures on the moon.
This is a new project that DARPA announced Feb. 5 called “Novel Orbital and Moon Manufacturing, Materials and Mass-efficient Design.”
DARPA is looking to “develop foundational materials, processes, and designs needed to realize in-space manufacturing of large, precise and resilient Defense Department systems,” Bill Carter, program manager at DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office, said in a statement.
DARPA is inviting companies that have technologies in this area to participate in a webinar planned for Feb. 26. The agency does not intend to issue any contracts now but is doing market research for a future solicitation.
The announcement does not say why DARPA or the Defense Department is interested in lunar systems. This type of project is consistent with the mission of DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office to avoid technological surprise and anticipate what might come next.
Some of the lunar manufacturing technologies DARPA wants to hear about include large, high precision mechanical structures; large solar arrays; large radio frequency reflector antennas, and segmented infrared reflective optics.
If the Defense Department needed to stand up a base on the moon, the biggest problem would be the transportation of materials and equipment. Access to space is becoming more routine for government and private industry, “but even with regular launches, modern rockets impose mass and volume limits on the payloads they deliver to orbit. This size constraint hinders developing and deploying large scale, dynamic space systems that can adapt to changes in their environment or mission,” DARPA said.