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Astroport Space Technologies Awarded Second NASA Technology Research Contract for Lunar Construction

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
Astroport Space Technologies
August 9, 2022
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Astroport Space Technologies Awarded Second NASA Technology Research Contract for Lunar Construction
Astroport Space Technologies

Astroport Space Technologies, Inc. has been awarded its second NASA Phase 1 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract for the construction of landing pads on the Moon.

Astroport and its research partner, The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), will develop geotechnical engineering processes for “Lunar Surface Site Preparation for Landing/Launch Pad and Blast Shield Construction” with a focus on “regolith works” for bulk regolith excavation and movement. The project will build on Astroport’s previous Phase 1 STTR-21 work on regolith melting technologies and robotic bricklaying system for lunar infrastructure construction.

The new research will describe a multi-step Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for “regolith works” executed by multiple machines operating autonomously or in remote control mode with step sequencing/timing to enable machine-to-machine collaboration. In particular, it will define conveyance techniques and sorting and filtering processes to prepare and deliver excavated regolith to Astroport’s Lunatron™ bricklayer system.

The project will utilize space civil engineering expertise from the University of Adelaide’s Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources (ATCSR) in Australia. Venturi Astrolab of Hawthorne, CA, will provide consulting support for integration into the overall system architecture of their FLEX rover as a baseline robotic mobility platform operating a suite of excavation tools.

Astroport’s Founder/CEO and Space Architect, Sam Ximenes said, “we are pleased that NASA continues to place confidence in our team’s ability to define and develop technologies and processes for lunar infrastructure construction. Under this new contract, the Astroport team will continue its work on the overall construction system architecture that we have started last year. Our objectives are to advance the state-of-art with geotechnical engineering and civil engineering processes for bulk regolith manipulation using a “regolith works” toolset for preparation of the lunar launch/landing site”.

Principal investigator for UTSA, Dr. Sazzad Bin-Shafique, said “this research is a natural progression of the University’s regolith liquefaction investigations, in that the Phase 1 study will develop discreet-event modeling of the bulk regolith conveyance methods to help determine feeds rates for Astroport’s Lunatron™ bricklayer system.” UTSA co-principal investigator, Dr. Ibukun Awolusi, assistant professor of construction science and management stated that “leveraging innovative technologies and systems such as those proposed in this study offers remarkable opportunities for the use of lunar materials, construction processes, and our efforts toward achieving space sustainability.”

ATCSR is one of a handful of organizations globally that has focused on the development of “space civil engineering” processes for planetary construction. ATCSR has developed numerical modeling to represent the geotechnical behavior of the natural lunar regolith when subjected to load in a lunar environment. This numerical representation facilitates the modeling of a range of lunar construction activities, such as vehicular movement, excavation, and compaction.

John Culton, Director of the Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources at the University of Adelaide said, “ATCSR is proud to support cutting-edge US partners leading the development of critical off-Earth civil engineering processes required to return humans to the Moon, ‘this time to stay'”.

About Astroport: Astroport Space Technologies Inc. is a space construction and materials manufacturing company turning planetary resources into durable feedstock for autonomous construction of lunar surface infrastructure. Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, Astroport was founded with a vision to design, deploy, and operate interplanetary landing ports to facilitate safe, reliable, and efficient spaceflights to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Astroport is a deep tech startup founded in 2020, operating as a technology venture arm of Exploration Architecture Corporation (XArc), a space architecture consulting design and engineering firm established in 2007.

About UTSA: The NASA MIRO Center for Advanced Measurements in Extreme Environments (CAMEE) at The University of Texas at San Antonio was established in 2019 to support NASA’s Science, Aeronautics, and Space Technology Mission Directorates, with the vision of building a sustainable source of diverse, highly trained researchers to enter the Nation’s workforce in NASA fields of earth system sciences, remote sensing and imaging technologies, computational fluid dynamics and data analytics, and experimental fluid mechanics. Space civil engineering has been added as a focus thrust area for the Center. Funding for the Center is provided through a NASA MUREP Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) award.

About ATCSR: The Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources (ATCSR) is the University of Adelaide’s hub for space expertise, creating a collaborative interdisciplinary ecosystem with lunar simulation labs not found anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. Unique opportunities to make history are found here for students and industry to support long-term human presence in deep space focusing on habitation, agriculture, human health and space law. Outcomes of our work will not only benefit humans in space but will positively impact life here on Earth.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.