AI SpaceFactory builds 3D printed Mars habitat prototype

April 10, 2019

New York, NY – AI SpaceFactory, an architecture and technology company based in New York, has printed their way to a top finish in the construction phase of the NASA and Bradley University sponsored 3D Printed Habitat Challenge. AI SpaceFactory received a prize of $88,353.30 on Friday, February 1st for its successful demonstration of autonomous construction of MARSHA, a visionary proposal for a Martian surface habitat selected by NASA as one of five finalists in an international competition. The competition asks teams to design and build a habitat for a crew of four astronauts on a mission to Mars using structural principles and construction techniques enabled by 3D printing technology.

Using state of the art robotics and their proprietary polymer, AI SpaceFactory is contending for the final top prize of $500,000 given to the highest scoring team to print a sub-scale habitat in the third and final phase of the construction competition. The 1:3 scale prototype will be printed in front of a live audience at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, from April 29 to May 4.

AI SpaceFactory was one of only four teams awarded among six who submitted entries, placing 2nd overall on the basis of 3D-printed samples that were tested for strength, impact resistance, and durability in extreme temperatures. In contrast to other teams, which used concrete as their construction material, AI SpaceFactory formulated their own material – a “Martian polymer” that can be made from matter found or grown on Mars. The polymer was validated by a third-party lab and proven to outperform concrete in every important way: superior tensile and compressive strength, extreme durability in freeze-thaw cycles, and enhanced ductility. The polymer also provides superior cosmic radiation absorption and thermal resistance (insulation) and can be made without water: essential characteristics in the construction of off-world habitats.

In five weeks, AI SpaceFactory progressed from basic tests to an autonomously-printed large-area slab validated by NASA in November 2018. Four weeks later the team successfully printed, in only 24 hours, a large cylinder designed to hold twelve-hundred gallons of water complete with prefabricated wall penetrations robotically placed and sealed "on the fly".

AI SpaceFactory describes MARHSA as a first-principles rethinking of what a Martian habitat could be -- not another low-lying dome or confined half-buried structure, but an airy, multi-level environment filled with diffuse light. This innovation challenges the conventional image of “space age” architecture by focusing on the creation of highly habitable spaces tuned to the demands of a Mars mission.

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