The Foster + Partners and Branch Technology team recently won first prize in the NASA 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge's Phase 2: Level 1 Compression Test Competition. The three-phase Challenge envisions a future where autonomous machines can help build extra-terrestrial shelters for human habitation. Phase 2 is divided into three levels, with each one focusing on a different structural challenge.

Foster + Partners' Mars Habitat concept.
Foster + Partners' Mars Habitat concept. © Foster + Partners

In the coming weeks, the teams will work on their designs for the Phase 2 - Level 2 Beam Member Competition, in which a beam will be 3D-printed to test spanning structures. Learn more about the Challenge here.12

  • 1.

    NASA's Centennial Challenges: 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge

    About the Challenge

    NASA and its partners are holding a $2.5 million competition to build a 3-D printed habitat for deep space exploration, including the agency’s journey to Mars. The multi-phase challenge is designed to advance the construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond.

    Phase 1 of the competition ran through Sept. 27, 2015. This phase, a $50,000 design competition, called on participants to develop state-of-the-art architectural concepts that take advantage of the unique capabilities 3-D printing offers. The top 30 submissions were judged, and prize money was awarded at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York.

    Phase 2 is now open and challenges competitors to demonstrate a recycling system that can create structural components using terrestrial and space-based materials and recyclables.

    Phase 3, which is currently under development, will focus on fabrication of complete habitats and will follow completion of Phase 2.

  • 2. Continuing the practice’s earlier design explorations for building in extreme environments and extra-terrestrial habitats with the Lunar Habitation project, Foster + Partners have been working on a NASA-backed competition for a 3d-printed modular habitat on Mars. The design for the Mars Habitat outlines plans for a settlement constructed by an array of pre-programmed, semi-autonomous robots prior to the eventual arrival of the astronauts. The habitat – created in collaboration with industrial and academic partners – envisions a robust 3D-printed dwelling for up to four astronauts constructed using regolith – the loose soil and rocks found on the surface of Mars.

    The proposal considers multiple aspects of the project from delivery and deployment to construction and operations. The habitat will be delivered in two stages prior to the arrival of the astronauts. First, the semi-autonomous robots select the site and dig a 1.5 metre deep crater, followed by a second delivery of the inflatable modules which sit within the crater to form the core of the settlement. Given the vast distance from the Earth and the ensuing communication delays, the deployment and construction is designed to take place with minimal human input, relying on rules and objectives rather than closely defined instructions. This makes the system more adaptive to change and unexpected challenges – a strong possibility for a mission of this scale.