Design-to-Robotic-Production of Underground Habitats on Mars

H.H. Bier, E.C.F. Vermeer, A.J. Hidding, K.K. Jani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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In order for off-Earth top surface structures built from regolith to protect astronauts from radiation, they need to be several meters thick. Technical University Delft (TUD) proposes to excavate into the ground to create subsurface habitats. By excavating, not only can natural protection from radiation be achieved but also thermal insulation, as the temperature is more stable underground. At the same time, valuable resources can be excavated via in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). In this process, a swarm of autonomous mobile robots excavate the ground in a downwards sloping spiral movement. The excavated regolith will be mixed with cement, which can be produced on Mars through ISRU, in order to create concrete. The concrete is then 3D printed/sprayed onto the excavated tunnel to reinforce it. As soon as the tunnels are reinforced, the material between the tunnels can be removed in order to create a larger cavity that can be used for habitation. The proposed approach relies on design-to-robotic-production (D2RP) technology developed at TUD for on-Earth applications. The rhizomatic 3D-printed structure is a structurally optimized, porous shell structure with increased insulation properties. In order to regulate the indoor pressurised environment, an inflatable structure is placed inside the 3D-printed cavity. This inflatable structure is made of materials that can at some point also be produced on Mars via ISRU. Depending on location, the habitat and the production system are powered by a system combining solar and kite-power. The ultimate goal is to develop an autarkic D2RP system for building subsurface autarkic habitats on Mars from locally-obtained materials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalSpool. Journal of Architecture and the Built Environment
Issue number2 #4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Data-driven design
  • robotic production and operation
  • habitat
  • renewable energy
  • autarkic system


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