3D Printing for Space Habitats: Requirements, Challenges, and Recent Advances

Reza Hedayati*, Victoria Stulova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Abstract

Heavily resource-reliant transportation and harsh living conditions, where humans cannot survive without a proper habitat, have prevented humans from establishing colonies on the Moon and Mars. Due to the absence of an atmosphere, potential habitats on the Moon or Mars require thick and strong structures that can withstand artificially produced internal pressure, potential meteoroid strikes, and the majority of incoming radiation. One promising way to overcome the noted challenges is the use of additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. It allows producing structures from abundant materials with minimal material manipulation as compared to traditional constructing techniques. In addition to constructing the habitat itself, 3D printing can be utilized for manufacturing various tools that are useful for humans. Recycling used-up tools to compensate for damaged or unfunctional devices is also possible by melting down a tool back into raw material. While space 3D printing sounds good on paper, there are various challenges that still have to be considered for printing-assisted space missions. The conditions in space are drastically different from those on Earth. This includes factors such as the absence of gravity, infinitesimal pressure, and rapid changes in temperature. In this paper, a literature study on the prospects of additive manufacturing in space is presented. There are a variety of 3D printing techniques available, which differ according to the materials that can be utilized, the possible shapes of the final products, and the way solidification of the material occurs. In order to send humans to other celestial bodies, it is important to account for their needs and be able to fulfill them. An overview of requirements for potential space habitats and the challenges that arise when considering the use of additive manufacturing in space are also presented. Finally, current research progress on 3D printing Lunar and Martian habitats and smaller items is reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number653
JournalAerospace
Volume10
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • 3D printing
  • additive manufacturing
  • Mars
  • Moon
  • space habitats

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