DARPA to survey the capabilities of the private sector to construct factories on the moon

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is planning to listen from the space sector about their strengths to build the broad structures on the moon. This is the latest initiative that the DARPA agency announced on February 5, identified as “Novel Orbital and Moon Manufacturing, components as well as mass-efficient design.”

Bill Carter, who works at DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office as the program manager, said in a statement that DARPA seeks to “develop fundamental materials, processes, as well as designs required to realize in-space development of massive, accurate and resilient Defense Department systems.” DARPA invites companies that have innovations in this sector to participate in an online session scheduled for February 26. The organization does not plan to issue any new deals now, but it is conducting market evaluation for a potential solicitation.

This declaration does not state why lunar systems are of interest to DARPA or the Defense Department. This form of the project is in line with Defense Sciences Office of DARPA’s mission to prevent and predict what could come next from technological surprise. Wide, high-precision mechanical structures, large radio frequency reflector antennas, large solar arrays and segmented infrared-reflective optics are some of the lunar manufacturing innovations DARPA needs to learn about.

If the Defense Department wanted a center on the moon to stand up, the transport of materials as well as equipment would be the biggest challenge. For the government and private sector, access to space is becoming more routine, “but even with regular launches, modern rockets impose mass and volume limits on the payloads they deliver to orbit.” This size restriction prevents large-scale, complex space systems from being built and deployed that can cope with the developments in their environment or mission, DARPA said. Carter, the program manager, stated that “for some time, space companies and scientists have been thinking about on-orbit production, so we expect to show new materials and manufacturing technologies by the end of the program.” DARPA is planning a three-phase program of about 18 months each.

Carter said DARPA would like to learn about “system designs that are so mass-efficient that they can only be constructed off Earth and with features that allow them to withstand space and lunar environments typical of maneuvers, eclipses, damage, and thermal cycles. “The statement said that manufacturing in space would bring “significant improvements in structural efficiency, size, resilience, and accuracy for future space-based platforms.”

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