Nov 29, 2022 - News

Austin firm ICON wins NASA contract for lunar construction

A rendering of astronauts outside their lunar home.

Astronauts outside their lunar home. Rendering courtesy of ICON

A cutting-edge Austin construction firm is partnering with NASA to figure out ways to build on the moon.

Why it matters: Astronauts aiming to live on the moon or, one day, Mars, will need to call some place home.

Driving the news: ICON, known for its 3D-printed homes and military barracks, is announcing today that it has landed a $57.2 million contract for Project Olympus, the company's effort to develop spaced-based construction to support exploration of the moon and beyond.

What they're saying: "We feel real weight and responsibility — we're not just doing this for ourselves, we're giving humanity the capability to build on other worlds," ICON CEO Jason Ballard told Axios.

  • "The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity's first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement."
  • Ballard said NASA could use ICON's technology on the moon as soon as 2026.

Details: Hoping to work with materials native to the moon, ICON engineers will examine lunar regolith — dust and broken rocks — to determine their mechanical behavior in simulated lunar gravity.

  • Company officials say the findings will inform future lunar construction for critical infrastructure like landing pads, blast shields and roads.

Zoom out: "To explore other worlds, we need innovative new technologies adapted to those environments and our exploration needs," said Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. "Pushing this development forward with our commercial partners will create the capabilities we need for future missions."

State of play: A fire destroyed an ICON South Austin facility early Friday.

  • But Ballard told Axios the firm's space-related work is happening at another South Austin facility.
  • "We do not expect a meaningful impact to our ongoing business activities," Brooke Bauguess, a spokesperson for ICON, told Axios.

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