ICON’s next-gen Vulcan construction system will complete a 158-m2 (1700-sf) structure, designed by architecture firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, that will simulate a realistic Mars habitat to support long-duration, exploration-class space missions.
ICON, developer of advanced construction technologies including robotics, software, and building materials, has been awarded a subcontract through Jacobs supporting NASA’s The Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) to deliver a 3D-printed habitat, known as Mars Dune Alpha, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
The layout of the innovative structure is organized in a gradient of privacy. Four private crew quarters will be located on one end of the habitat; dedicated workstations, medical stations, and food-growing stations are located on the opposite end, with shared living spaces found in between.
Varying ceiling heights vertically segmented by an arching shell structure accentuate the unique experience of each area to avoid spatial monotony and crew member fatigue. A mix of fixed and movable furniture will allow crew members to reorganize the habitat according to their daily needs, as will the customizable lighting, temperature, and sound control—helping regulate the daily routine, circadian rhythm, and overall wellbeing of the crew.
NASA will use research from the Mars Dune Alpha simulations to inform risk and resource trades to support crew health and performance for future missions to Mars when astronauts would live and work on the red planet for long periods of time.
Future space exploration habitats have the potential to be 3D-printed with additive construction technology to eliminate the need to launch large quantities of building materials on multiple flights, which is cost-prohibitive.
“Mars Dune Alpha is intended to serve a very specific purpose—to prepare humans to live on another planet,” said Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO, ICON. “3D-printing the habitat has further illustrated to us that construction-scale 3D-printing is an essential part of humanity’s toolkit on Earth and to go to the moon and Mars to stay.”