Design Engineering

NASA launches phase 3 of 3D-Printed Habitat Competition 


General Aerospace 3D printing NASA space exploration

The third phase challenges competitors to fabricate sub-scale habitats using indigenous materials with or without mission-generated recyclables.

As space exploration takes us further away from our home planet into the depth of void, space explorers are learning that they are no longer able to take the necessary supplies to make these missions successful. Scientists need to find innovative solutions and options to supply and stock necessary materials for future space exploration.

Nasa space habitats

The Foster + Partners | Branch Technology team won first place and $250,000 at Phase 2: Level 3 of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

NASA is taking on this obstacle with its 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. This Centennial Challenges competition explores ways to create or develop the technologies needed to create such habitats on-site, and challenges citizen inventors to lead the way.

The space agency and challenge partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, have officially opened Phase 3 of the competition for team registration.

This phase of the On-Site Habitat Competition challenges competitors to fabricate sub-scale habitats using indigenous materials with or without mission-generated recyclables, and offers a $2 million total prize purse. Phase 3 has five levels of competition. Interested teams may register through Feb. 15, 2018.


“The ideas and technologies this competition has already produced are encouraging, and we are excited to see what this next phase will bring,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges. “The solutions we seek from our competitions are revolutionary, which by nature makes them extremely difficult. But this only fuels our teams to work harder to innovate and solve.”

The hope is that the autonomous machines will someday be deployed to the Moon, Mars or beyond to construct shelters for human habitation. On Earth, these same capabilities could be used to produce affordable housing wherever it is needed or where access to conventional building materials and skills are limited.

“This challenge isn’t something our students can learn about in a textbook or in a classroom,” says Bradley University President Gary Roberts. “Bradley prides itself on experiential learning and student engagement. This is a forward-thinking concept coming to life, and they have a chance to see it firsthand. They will meet the people making it happen and learn about the ideas that are fueling innovation. This could change the way they imagine the future and push their creative limits.”

The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is divided into phases. The Phase 1: Design Competition called on participants to develop state-of-the-art architectural concepts and was completed in 2015. The Phase 2: Structural Member Competition focused on manufacturing structural components and was completed in August 2017.

In addition to NASA, Bradley University has partnered with sponsors Caterpillar Inc., Bechtel and Brick & Mortar Ventures to run the competition.


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