PISCES facilitated the RESOLVE ISRU test mission at a planetary analog test site location on Hawaii Island. The mission employed Canada’s Artemis Jr. rover to develop a method for extracting regolith to make resources like oxygen, water and rocket fuel. Credit: NASA.

NASA has announced that PISCES and Honeybee Robotics, Ltd. have been selected for NASA’s 2017 STTR Program to develop an ISRU technology called “Planetary LEGO Blocks.” The grant award, which is pending contract negotiations, would fund Phase 1 of development for the technology intended to build critical infrastructure in space using native resources.

Planetary LEGO blocks would utilize sintered basalt to robotically build construction pavers in-situ. The process could enable robotic space manufacturing on places like the Moon and Mars using surface regolith, which closely resembles Hawaii’s volcanic basalt. Such a process could be used to create usable materials like structural components, spare parts, tools, habitats, shelters, VT/VL tiles, roads, indoor pavers, thermal re-entry tiles and thermal wadis.

PISCES has already created several prototype pavers using Hawaii-sourced basalt fines. Tests show they are stronger than residential concrete. Further research and development may yield a sustainable new product and manufacturing industry for the State of Hawaii, while benefitting deep space exploration missions and the aerospace industry.

PISCES and Honeybee Robotics previously collaborated on the VT/VL Landing Pad Project–a robotically-built, landing pad constructed on Hawaii Island made entirely of sintered basalt pavers.

In the proposed project, Honeybee Robotics will design and develop the robotics in the ISRU process to create usable Planetary Lego Blocks. The Brooklyn-based tech company has designed, built and integrated instruments for space exploration, including one of NASA’s Mars rovers that currently roams the Red Planet.

PISCES and Honeybee Robotics’ proposal was selected out of 1,621 solicitations submitted for NASA’s 2017 STTR Program. The program funds businesses and research institutions developing technologies that can support NASA’s missions into deep space. Phase 1 STTR contracts last for 12 months with a maximum award of $125,000.

NASA announced the selectees for contract negotiations on April 19, 2017.