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NASA taps LSU for lunar construction research

Dec 19, 2023 (0) comment , ,

The team of academic and government scientists will test the use of molten sulfur and lunar dust to create waterless concrete for 3D printing on the moon.

The moon rising over NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The agency has been working to research materials for construction in space. Courtesy of NASA



  • Ahead of NASA’s planned 2025 return to the moon as part of its Artemis program, Louisiana State University has partnered with the space agency to test new lunar construction materials, the school announced on Dec. 4.
  • LSU Assistant Professor Ali Kazemian is working on the research project with two scientists from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama: technical fellow Michael Fiske and Jennifer Edmunson, project manager and geologist. The group will primarily investigate the use of molten sulfur and moon dust to develop a 3D-printed, waterless concrete, per the release.
  • The project’s ultimate goal is to establish robotic construction and 3D printing on the moon, Kazemian said. The high cost of shipping construction materials to space is prohibitive, and the creation of a material like Portland cement is difficult in space, due to the large amounts of water it needs during production.



The project is funded by a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, according to the release. One part of the study will take place at LSU, while the material’s space-readiness will be tested at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

The team will test how the concrete, made from sulfur and regolith, or lunar soil, holds up under factors like near-vacuum conditions, extreme temperatures and stressors. After that, the team will engage in a practical demonstration.

“After reaching these objectives, together with our NASA colleagues, we will work on design and development of a large-scale [sulfur-regolith concrete] 3D-printing system at NASA Marshall to validate our research findings on a large scale,” Kazemian said in the release. “For example, by 3D printing a Lunar habitat analog.”

In addition to the material’s potential for space exploration, the group is also working on several other projects, per the release. Among these pursuits is the ability of 3D printing to build houses and shelters, in response to the global housing crisis, and the use of the material in arid regions that suffer from drought, due to the material’s ability to come together without water.

3D printing, among other initiatives, is a key part of NASA’s push to create a permanent settlement on the moon. Last year, the agency awarded $57.2 million to Austin, Texas-based 3D printing firm Icon for more research into tech that could bring structures to the lunar surface. Along with it, NASA gave out $19.4 million in grants to three companies to build sophisticated solar panel prototypes and perform environmental testing. That technology will be used to develop a power system that NASA will establish on the moon’s south pole by 2030.



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