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Off-Earth Manufacturing

Background and Motivation

Efforts towards human exploration beyond Earth are seeing a remarkable resurgence, with an increasing number of robotic missions to the surfaces of the Moon and Mars and plans to send humans to these destinations in the near future [1], [2]. Private entities are also formulating long-term visions and developing associated nearer-term technologies for enabling sustained human presence and activities on the lunar and Martian surfaces [3], [4].

Such objectives can only be realised with the appropriate infrastructure to support human presence [5]. This includes infrastructure to shield the crew and equipment from environmental conditions (e.g. habitat structure, berms), enable crew mobility (e.g. roads, landing pads), generate energy (e.g. solar energy equipment, energy storage) and facilitate communications (e.g. antenna towers).

Local sourcing of materials

Relying solely on the shipment of materials, equipment and supplies from Earth to build and maintain such infrastructure would likely make long-term exploration missions prohibitively expensive. The ability to produce the required infrastructure elements and associated equipment on site – by maximising the use of in-situ resources and minimising the use of supplies from Earth – appears essential to enable sustainable and economically viable long-term human activities. Manufacturing and construction using in-situ resources is inscribed in ESA’s Space Resources Strategy [6], as a field of application of local resources on the Moon, as well as a key technology area for development on Earth and further maturation for space.

Past efforts have been dedicated to proposing and demonstrating concepts for in-situ fabrication and construction of infrastructure elements, using a combination of resources found on the exploration site – such as regolith – and materials brought from Earth [7], [8]. Previously proposed technologies were developed up to the feasibility demonstration stage, focusing on the development of processes to obtain construction materials, [9]–[16], the construction of large-scale or miniature infrastructure element demonstrators [17]–[22], or the manufacturing of small, high-resolution hardware [23]–[25].  


  1. The Global Exploration Roadmap, January 2018,
  2. Gibney, Elizabeth. "How to build a moon base Researchers are ramping up plans for living on the Moon." Nature 562.7728 (2018): 474-+
  3. SpaceX, Starship Update, 28 September 2019,
  4. Blue Origin, “Going to Space to Benefit Earth”, 9 May 2019,
  5. D. Binns et al, “Review and Analysis of (European) Building Blocks for a Future Moon Village”, IAC-17-D.1.7, 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), Adelaide, Australia, 25-29 September 2017
  6. ESA Space Resources Strategy, 23 May 2019,
  7. Lim, Sungwoo, et al. Extra-terrestrial construction processes–Advancements, opportunities and challenges. Advances in Space Research, 2017, 60.7: 1413-1429
  8. Naser, M.Z., “Extraterrestrial construction materials”, Progress in Materials Science Volume 105, August 2019, 100577
  9. Meurisse, Alexandre, et al. "Solar 3D printing of lunar regolith." Acta Astronautica 152 (2018): 800-810.
  10. Mueller, Robert P., et al. "Additive construction using basalt regolith fines." Earth and Space 2014. 2014. 394-403.
  11. Goulas, Athanasios, Russell A. Harris, and Ross J. Friel. "Additive manufacturing of physical assets by using ceramic multicomponent extra-terrestrial materials." Additive Manufacturing 10 (2016): 36-42.
  12. Chen, Tzehan, et al. "Formation of polymer micro-agglomerations in ultralow-binder-content composite based on lunar soil simulant." Advances in Space Research 61.3 (2018): 830-836.
  13. Chow, Brian J., et al. "Direct formation of structural components using a martian soil simulant." Scientific reports 7.1 (2017): 1151.
  14. Wan, Lin, Roman Wendner, and Gianluca Cusatis. "A novel material for in situ construction on Mars: experiments and numerical simulations." Construction and Building Materials 120 (2016): 222-231.
  15. Arnhof, M., S. Pilehvar, A.-L. Kjøniksen, and I. Cheibas. 2019. “Basalt Fibre Reinforced Geopolymer Made from Lunar Regolith Simulant.” In 8th European Conference for Aeronautics and Space Sciences, EUCASS, Madrid, Spain.
  16. Lakk, H., Krijgsheld, P., Montalti, M., and Woesten, H., “Fungal Based Biocomposite for Habitat Structures on the Moon and Mars”, International Astronautical Congress, 2018. 
  17. Cesaretti, Giovanni, et al. "Building components for an outpost on the Lunar soil by means of a novel 3D printing technology." Acta Astronautica 93 (2014): 430-450.
  18. Werkheiser, Mary J., et al. "On the development of additive construction technologies for application to development of lunar/martian surface structures using in-situ materials." AIAA SPACE 2015 conference and exposition. 2015.
  19. Buchner, Christoph, et al. "A new planetary structure fabrication process using phosphoric acid." Acta Astronautica 143 (2018): 272-284.
  20. Zhang, Jing, and Behrokh Khoshnevis. "Selective Separation Sintering (SSS) A New Layer Based Additive Manufacturing Approach for Metals and Ceramics." University of Southern California, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (2015): 71-79.
  21. Lakk, H., Schleppi, J., Cowley, A., Vasey, L., Yablonina, M., and Menges, A., “Fibrous Habitat Structure from Lunar Basalt Fibre”, International Astronautical Congress, 2018.
  22. Imhof, Barbara, et al. "Advancing Solar Sintering for Building A Base On The Moon." 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), Adelaide, Australia. 2017.
  23. Fateri, Miranda, and Andreas Gebhardt. "Process Parameters Development of Selective Laser Melting of Lunar Regolith for On‐Site Manufacturing Applications." International Journal of Applied Ceramic Technology 12.1 (2015): 46-52.
  24. ESA, “3D-printed ceramic parts made from lunar regolith”, 14 November 2018,
  25. Jakus, Adam E., et al. "Robust and elastic lunar and martian structures from 3D-printed regolith inks." Scientific reports 7 (2017): 44931.