NASA awards Cooperative Agreement to Drake State Community & Technical College for Space Construction Research

October 15, 2020

Drake State Community & Technical College has been selected by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to help research 3D printing technologies that will help prepare for sustainable Artemis operations on the Moon by the end of the decade and for future human missions to Mars.

Drake State submitted a proposal to Marshall's seventh competitive Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) for Dual-Use Technology Development solicitation, and the award will fund collaborative research in support of NASA's Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technologies (MMPACT) project. This project aims to develop, deliver, and demonstrate on-demand capabilities to protect astronauts and create infrastructure on the lunar surface via construction of landing pads, habitats, shelters, roadways, berms and blast shields using lunar regolith-based materials.

Drake State is the first community college and only historically Black community college to receive a cooperative agreement award from Marshall's CAN opportunity since its inception in 2013.

The research team consists of students, instructors and administrators from the college’s Engineering Design program. It will test 3D printed concrete structures to help develop construction techniques suitable for building landing pads, roads, and other large structures on the Moon.

“Being Huntsville’s community college we’re especially proud to have received this CAN award,” said Dr. Patricia Sims, President of Drake State Community & Technical College. “We’ve been a part of the Rocket City since 1961. The opportunity to support NASA with our research project is truly exciting.”

The one-year research project is funded through NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). The research team will collaborate with ICON, an innovative 3D printing construction company in Austin, Texas, that is working with NASA on early research and development of a space-based construction system that could support future exploration of the Moon and Mars.

“Our team will use 3D printing technology to build concrete structures, conduct destructive and non-destructive testing, and collect and analyze data,” said Robert Grissim, Director of Workforce Development at Drake State Community & Technical College and Principle Investigator.

Additionally, instructors in the Engineering Design program will develop curriculum related to the research project and add the specialty classes to the College’s course catalog.

“Our goal is to continue to support the Artemis mission and NASA after our research project is completed,” said Dr. Carolyn Henderson, Dean of Instruction at Drake State Community & Technical College. “Training our students to work in space-based construction technology will create a pipeline to a workforce skilled in this highly-specialized field.”

An advisory board is being established to oversee the research project and monitor progress. Plans are being made for members of the research team to meet with other research partners and Marshall for project orientation.