ISRU LAUNCH & LANDING PAD

In late 2015, we completed construction of a robotically-built lunar landing pad in Hawai’i. Partnering with NASA SwampWorks, Honeybee Robotics, ARGO, and the Hawaiʻi County Dept. of Research and Development, this unique additive manufacturing project employed locally sourced basalt and our planetary rover ‘Helelani’. Helelani was equipped with a leveling blade and robotic arm to grade and level the site. A NASA SwampWorks team controlled the rover from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, placing 100 basalt pavers to form a crude launch and landing pad. The project served as an additional exercise for NASA’s Lunar Prospector mission.

 

After assembly, we tested the launch pad’s structural integrity by staging a high-powered rocket blast. The pad partially cracked, but showed promise. Further study showed the structural properties of the tiles exceeded residential concrete.

The project opened possibilities for robotic manufacturing and furthered progress in ISRU construction for the Moon and Mars. Since the basalt landing pad tiles—sourced in Hawaiʻi—were similar in composition to lunar and Martian regolith, the project was an important development in additive construction techniques using native materials.

Landing pads will be crucial in future space missions.  Spacecrafts can cause high-velocity dust storms during take-off and landing, blasting fine particles in all directions.  These sandblasts can significantly damage neighboring structures and space equipment. Landing pads offer a flat, stable surface to prevent such losses.