SAN ANTONIO – A new round of NASA funding is bringing a local space exploration company closer to building human settlements on the moon.
NASA has awarded Exploration Architecture and its subsidiary, Astroport Space Technologies, three Phase 1 awards and one Phase 2 award to develop construction and operations technologies needed to create surface landing/launch pads on the moon, Astroport announced this week in a news release.
The awards are part of NASA’s multibillion-dollar Artemis program that aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 and pave the way for human missions to Mars.
The total award amount is $1.3 million. $450,000 will go toward the advancement of Astroport’s lunar brick-making technologies and for XArc to develop a robot to survey potential landing/launch sites on the moon. Astroport and its consortium team will use the remaining $850,000, part of a Phase 2 STTR, to refine its concept of operations and system architecture for the landing/launch pad site preparation and construction process.
For the past three years, NASA has funded Astroport and XArc’s research and development into lunar manufacturing technologies. Now, with the Phase 2 STTR, Astroport can begin maturing these technologies, Ximenes told the Business Journal.
“For example, (with) the regolith distribution system as a whole, now we know how we’re going to distribute the regolith and process it after we’ve excavated it,” Ximenes explained. “Now the next step is to do the mechanical engineering and the design of those devices that do that.”
Phase 2 will be a multinational effort, according to Ximenes. Astroport will collaborate with three different universities on three different continents – the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of Adelaide in Australia, and the University of Wroclaw in Poland – to develop the system architecture.
“It’s not one company that’s going to be able to construct a landing pad or base. It’s going to be a number of companies that are going to be involved, and that’s what we are pushing internationally,” Ximenes said.
Ximenes said while the ultimate goal of NASA is to create human settlements on the moon, “the Holy Grail is getting to Mars.”
“The moon is three days away. Mars is six months to two years away, depending on when you launch. If we can test these technologies, test out these processes here on the moon...we know how to live on another planet with a bit more confidence,” Ximenes said.
Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.