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

AI Space Factory, an additive manufacturing and design company, is among the top 10 teams selected in phase 3 of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge this year. PISCES is providing consulting support to the New York-based company, which developed a cutting-edge 3-D printed habitat design that could one day shelter human 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 settlement. 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 design must also incorporate systems for life support, mechanic and electrical, 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, and has five levels of competition – 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 challenge the teams to 3D-print elements of the habitat, culminating with a one-third-scale printed habitat for the final level. ($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.