Austin-based 3D-printing construction company Icon is on track to be the first building developer on the moon (that we know of).
NASA awarded the company a $57.2 million contract to research and develop a lunar surface construction system, Icon announced Tuesday.
The funding is the latest in a series of contracts NASA has awarded Icon as part of the government agency's small business innovation research program. As with prior infusions from NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense, the money will help fund ICON’s Project Olympus — its program to research and develop space-based construction systems to support planned exploration.
The Olympus system will use materials found on the moon and Mars or simulated approximations to "target humanity’s first-ever construction on another planetary body," according to an Icon statement. Ultimately, the company hopes to collaborate with NASA and private companies to create an ongoing presence on the moon, which the federal agency's Artemis program is exploring for establishment of the first sustainable off-Earth surface site.
Icon will use a gravity simulator and work with lunar regolith samples from Apollo missions as well as simulated materials to develop future lunar construction systems and infrastructure needed to create lunar economy and eventual human habitation.
Icon established itself as a high-profile, going-places tech startup in 2018, when it printed the first permitted 3D-house in the nation over a 48-hour period at a South by Southwest demo. It's stayed in the spotlight since then, developing its construction technologies on a number of groundbreaking projects, including a master-planned community underway north of Austin in Georgetown.
In recent years, Icon has broken its earthly bonds, winning a NASA subcontract to deliver the Mars Dune Alpha, the world’s first simulated 3D-printed habitat for the Mars surface. Designed by architecture firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, the simulated habitat is used for developing long-duration science missions at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The company, which recently lost its headquarters in a fire, also built the world's first 3D-printed rocket-launching pad.