NASA has identified a need in Subtopic Z14.02 for extraterrestrial (i.e. Lunar or Martian) surface construction using in situ resources, such as regolith, in order to lower the cost to fabricate habitats on future space exploration. Consumable materials that must be brought from Earth also will need to be minimized. International Scientific Technologies, Inc., in conjunction with Virginia Tech, proposes the Additive Manufacturing of regolith combined with hydrogen-rich polymers to develop radiation-shielding structural materials for habitats. The program Technical Objectives include evaluation of hydrogen-rich polymer-regolith compositions for use in radiation-shielding habitat materials, Additive Manufacturing of hydrogen-rich polymer-regolith materials and structures for habitat construction, and measurement and test of the hydrogen-rich polymer-regolith composites for construction on Lunar or Mars surfaces. The innovation is the development of polymer-regolith composites and their efficient Additive Manufacturing for structural materials to protect humans on extraterrestrial missions. The anticipated result is the Additive Manufacturing structures of composite materials that combines in situ resource utilization (ISRU), i.e. regolith, with a minimal amount of hydrogen-rich polymeric binder that is effective in slowing and fragmenting the incoming particles found in galactic cosmic radiation (GCR). Additives, such as boron, could be included to enhance absorption of neutrons generated by interactions of GCR and solar particle event (SPE) particles with the shielding materials. The anticipated result is Additive Manufacturing composites that have multifunctional properties of radiation shielding against galactic cosmic radiation, neutrons and electromagnetic radiation, and structural integrity to permit use in habitats.
NASA directorates that can use the proposed Additive Manufacturing composite technology are Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), and Science Mission Directorate (SMD). The multifunctional habitat composite materials addresses the NASA Strategic Plan to extend human presence deeper into space, including to the moon and Mars, for long-term exploration and utilization, and to develop and transfer technologies for exploration capabilities.
Additive Manufacturing of composite materials will find application in developing radiation-shielding structural materials for extraterrestrial habitats. DoD and DHS will find applications that include protection of soldiers, first responders and emergency medical personnel against radiation resulting from dirty bombs as well as from hazards from accidental release of radiological materials.