Above: Artist rendering of the planetary habitat design submitted by AI Space Factory. PC: AI Space Factory.

AI Space Factory, a New York-based additive manufacturing and design company, is among the top 10 teams selected in the third phase of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge this year. PISCES is providing consulting support to AI Space Factory, which designed an innovative habitat that could one day shelter astronauts on Mars.

The goal of the 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge is to develop manufacturing technologies for habitats using in-situ materials—with or without recyclable materials. One day, engineers hope to see automated robots deployed into deep space destinations to build shelters for human settlements. The same technologies could benefit people living on Earth by producing affordable housing where it is needed, or where access to conventional building materials is limited.

The challenge is currently in phase 3, level 1 to develop digital renderings of Martian housing using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. To meet the competition criteria, the habitat must include 1,000 square feet of living space, and support up to four astronauts for one year. The shelter must also incorporate life support systems, mechanical and electrical systems, spacesuit and rover hatches, and plumbing.

The competition began in 2014 and is structured in three phases:

  • Phase 1, the Design Competition, required teams to submit architectural renderings and was completed in 2015. ($50,000 prize purse)
  • Phase 2, the Structural Member Competition, focused on material technologies, requiring teams to create structural components. It was completed in 2017. ($1.1 million prize purse)
  • Phase 3 (current), the On-Site Habitat Competition, challenges competitors to fabricate sub-scale habitats in five levels of competition including three construction levels and two virtual levels. For the virtual levels, teams must use BIM software to design a habitat that combines allowances for both the structure and systems it must contain. The construction levels require the teams to 3D-print elements of the habitat, culminating in a one third-scale printed habitat for the final level, a $2 million prize purse.

Eighteen teams submitted designs in the competition on May 16, 2018. AI Space Factory will now compete to be among the top five teams who will receive a  $100,000 cash prize in July.