The works will be conducted jointly with New York-based Honeybee Robotics, Ltd. The project will last for 12 months. Once complete, Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and Honeybee Robotics intend to apply for a second-stage grant for funding of up to $1 million over two years.
Small Business Technology Transfer grant is supposed to be used for technological research of manufacturing construction materials made entirely of local basalts, which closely resemble in composition to Martian and lunar basalts. While working out technologies on the Earth, NASA intends to apply them later for other planets exploration.
As fantastic as it may seem, NASA specialists work under the issues of landing and colonizing other planets through careful attention to details, planning shelters, roads, landing pads and other critical infrastructure being made of local materials. Since basalt was discovered on other planets, it is considered as suitable for the manufacture of construction materials right on the space construction site.
Concepts of Mars habitats based on basalt fiber reinforced composites were awarded in NASA competition, which is currently ongoing. The terms of the competition require 3-D printing and PISCES establishes cooperation with one of its participants – startup RedWorks.
A year ago, NASA completed the technology competition for the construction using basalt and regolith called In-Situ Materials Challenge. The winner is the University of Southern California professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, who developed a completely new 3D printing technology called “Selective Separation Sintering” process (SSS).
The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and New York-based Honeybee Robotics, Ltd. will focus on developing building blocks made entirely of sintered Hawaiian basalt, including basalt composite rebar reinforced.
As a result Hawaii will receive a very practical, not extra-terrestrial effect: the developed materials and technologies can be used for their own needs, fortunately, raw materials are abundant on the volcanic islands. Financing was the issue. The Center publishes extensive, colorful reports covering specifics of the work, plans and prospects, such as this one for 2017.
PISCES had applied to Hawaii state Legislature before with a request to invest the basalt technologies research in order to manufacture composites and allocate $400,000 a year. However, Hawaii House and Senate conferees agreed on $200 000 from the state budget for the next fiscal years 2018 and 2019. NASA project will facilitate the development of basalt production in Hawaii.