The following image shows PISCES’ Helelani rover performing tests at the new lunar landing pad site on Hawaii Island. 

The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) has signed a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), formally establishing a partnership for the development of a lunar landing pad test site on the Big Island.

The development of the site is part of the Additive Construction for Mobile Emplacement (ACME) project, which aims to robotically build a vertical lift off and landing pad using basalt found in Hawaii’s own backyard.

PISCES crewmembers will be using indigenous Hawaiian basalt crushed rock material mined from a quarry near Hilo, Hawaii for the project. The basalt found here is nearly identical to the regolith or dirt found on the Moon and Mars. The initiative will help develop a method of effectively building in space. Landing pads offer a flat, stable surface to prevent damages that occur when spacecrafts take off or land on planetary objects.

PISCES’ contributions to the project include the building of a simulated lunar surface, and performing the launch pad construction operations using the PISCES’ telerobotically operated rover.  PISCES specialists will also be setting up a mission control center for robotic operations of the construction. Additionally, PISCES will provide a capability for NASA to remotely teleoperate the leveling blade and potentially the rover from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Kennedy Space Center will offer an array of assistance as well, including providing the leveling and grading blade and a robotic basalt paver deployment mechanism.

The project is the first of its kind in Hawaii. Construction is slated for this fall, weather permitting.

The project is in conjunction with the Hawaii County Department of Research and Development.