Demonstrator structures (courtesty of FOTEC)
Enabling & Support

Limited resources manufacturing technologies

29/06/2017 397 views 3 likes
ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Engineering & Technology / Shaping the Future
 Programme:  TRP Workplan  Achieved TRL:  3
 Reference:  T324-002QT  Closure:  2017
 Contractor(s):  Fotec (AT)

This activity is aimed at investigating requirements and available technologies for manufacturing hardware on planet, using limited resources available on site. This is to enable sustainable exploration missions, by the construction and maintenance of infrastructure.

The objectives of this activity are to review, propose, study and assess concepts for manufacturing hardware at a pace driven by the available resources in-situ (materials and energy sources). Demonstration of a proposed manufacturing concept will be implemented.

The picture above displays an igloo, a corner wall and truss specimens obtained by extrusion-deposition of a mixture of Martian regolith simulant, phosphoric acid and water.

Achievements and status
A review and trade-off of In-Situ Resource Utilization technologies for hardware manufacturing, with associated requirements, has been conducted. A semi-automated computational programme for technology trade-off has been built.

An additive manufacturing technology based on extrusion-deposition of a regolith-binder mixture has been proposed and demonstrated with Martian regolith simulant. 

Several demonstrators of regolith-simulant-based structures have been produced. 

The produced regolith-based material has been characterised (mechanical, thermal cycling).

Extrusion-deposition of igloo demonstrator (courtesty of FOTEC)
Extrusion-deposition of igloo demonstrator (courtesty of FOTEC)

This activity demonstrates the feasibility of an additive manufacturing process for building small scale structures using regolith simulant and phosphoric acid. This process is applicable to various regolith composition (Martian, lunar).  This could be used to manufacture hardware and small scale structural elements to support exploration missions.

Next steps
Follow-on technology development activity targeted to apply extrusion-deposition process to other regolith processing techniques, to investigate possibilities for process scale-up and combination with other regolith processing techniques.

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