The United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is examining commercial solutions to develop off-earth manufacturing capabilities.
In a February 5 press release, DARPA announced its Novel Orbital and Moon Manufacturing, Materials and Mass-efficient Design (NOM4D) program. The program seeks to pioneer technology to enable off-earth manufacturing of large space and lunar structures.
“NOM4D’s vision is to develop foundational materials, processes, and designs needed to realize in-space manufacturing of large, precise, and resilient Defense Department systems,” said Bill Carter, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office.
In addition to announcing the creation of the NOM4D program, the agency also announced that it plans to host a webinar on February 26 to provide information on the objectives of the program to potential commercial partners.
“We’re looking for proposers to come up with system designs that are so mass-efficient that they can only be built off-earth, and with features that enable them to withstand maneuvers, eclipses, damage, and thermal cycles typical of space and lunar environments,” Carter said.
The program will be split into three 18-month phases. The first of the three phases will act as a proof of concept for materials and designs. Phase two will focus on risk reduction and the maturation of the technology. The final phase will aim to produce flight-ready solutions.
In addition to ambitious goals for the program itself, with the creation of NOM4D, DARPA has set a demanding objective for launch providers. To realise the program’s goals, the agency assumes that rapid, frequent launch capabilities with regular scheduled lunar visits will be available. Currently, launch services are neither rapid nor frequent and visits to the Moon are a rarity rather than a regular occurrence.