XPRIZE In-Space Manufacturing

In the past, the focus for the creation of space infrastructure has relied on bringing materials from Earth to space. The use of in-situ materials could help extend and expand human presence and economic activity in space. To this purpose, construction and self-replication of machines that use resources where they are found could be used to create and maintain off-Earth habitats and potentially take heavy industry off-planet.

We would like to learn from you:

  • Is this an audacious prize competition?
  • What are the innovation gaps in this area?
  • What would the winning team need to do?
  • What would be audacious but achievable targets?
  • What is the expected impact of this prize?

Hi @Basia, @avi_loeb and @crointel - Given your expertise in this area, you may have inputs to share on this prize direction.

Do you think In-Space Manufacturing is an audacious enough to be the next XPRIZE competition? if so, what should the wining team demonstrate?

Hi @jmasiero, @Jekan, @Labonets and @SarahMGomez - In your views, do you think in-space manufacturing is possible? If so, what are the innovation gaps in this space?

Hi @JohnBucknell, @pjaffeva, @SpacePlaceCanada - What are your thoughts on having a competition in in-space manufacturing? What are the innovation gaps in this area?

Hi Shashi, this is less my area of expertise, but I would say that because very little hardware has been demonstrated (other than what Made in Space has done on the ISS https://madeinspace.us/) that the innovation gaps are enormous. Utilizing extraterrestrial materials (say on the lunar surface) to build something would be pretty compelling.

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Hi Shashi,

I’m with Paul, the gaps are huge - and effectively impossible to demonstrate on the ground. A prize like this needs microgravity at the very least, and later thermal-vacuum environments to validate ideas otherwise you just have a concept not a solution. How would you do that in a reasonable way? The microgravity environments with dedicated aircraft are only for fractions of a minute at a time, and manufacturing generally takes much longer - so the options are experiments in space stations.

I would have to argue that while audacious, you couldn’t prove construction or self-replication off-Earth. I would even argue self-replication all by itself isn’t possible with the technology we have today. Apologies for being negative.

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This seems like a logical next step for the space industry. Opportunities exist for assembly in Earth orbit, lunar orbit, on the lunar surface, and on Mars; and shipping materials / constructions between lunar and Earth orbits.

I’ve proposed to some related aspects in the XPRIZE challenge for a circular economy / recycling in space, in Earth orbit, using waste / debris.

I’ve proposed a method of cheaply [less gravitational energy to overcome] getting raw resources into space, by mining on the Moon and rail launching them into lunar orbit. The materials can then be assembled in lunar orbit (e.g. using robots and 3D printing). Some may be shipped from there to Earth orbit - as raw materials or constructed entities. See: Space Future Gallery

Both of these ideas should reduce the environmental impact on Earth, and reduce the energy and cost required for space based construction in the future. It’s providing the spades for the space gold rush :slight_smile:

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Here are a thread of In-Space Manufacturing ideas that I posted over in Slack 2 weeks ago (too many communications options…)

Lunar infrastructure - landing pads : Land a technology capable of re-processing lunar regolith (in-place) into a firm, robust landing surface for rockets and rovers. Prize is to create 100 m^2 of hardscape surface in 3 months. Demo on the Moon.

Lunar infrastructure - lunar brick prize . Create a minimum 1000 bricks from lunar regolith, for a minimum total volume of 10 m^3 - on the Moon. Minimum compressive strength and young’s modulus requirements.

In-Space 3D Printing - Prize goes to the team that can create the longest structure with the lowest amount of material, within a fixed time. Could “collect” the material back and demonstrate re-creating a second truss with the same materials. 3rd option could be to create the largest “closed ring” which could also be recycled/remanufactured from that point. A twist on this would be “manufacturing of the largest Earth-orbiting pressure vessel that can maintain 1 atmosphere of pressure”. No constraints on how its done, the largest by the prize deadline wins.

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Since these thoughts two weeks ago, one additional thought on “Space Construction” that doesn’t imply a construction method (such as additive manufacturing), would simply be to create the largest structure, with points ranked for two primary metrics (and potentially a winner for the best of each)

  1. Subtended area. A long narrow beam is less valuable than a smaller closed ring.
  2. Structural stiffness. A very large “noodle” is not as valuable than a smaller, much more rigid platform.

No restrictions on method of construction (additive manufacturing, in-space modular assembly, ground-assembled heavy launch, etc.)


We’re wordsmithing what we call the “winning-team-will statement” for this prize: a succinct description of what a competing team would need to do to win.

Here’s the current version, and I’d appreciate your thoughts:
Utilizing non-Earth materials produce usable materials and products.

The next step are drafting the testing and judging criteria for the prize. Here’s what we have so far:

  • Utilize non-Earth materials
  • To
    • Produce 1 ton of polymers from organic molecules, food (set nutritional value targets) or bioplastic.
    • Or, create a structure or a finalized product, that is resilient to space hazards
  • With the highest production efficiency: create the most with the least material, within a fixed X(tbd) time.
  • Define the production site
    • If on-orbit is defined, then: maximizing the utility of production techniques.

@interplanetary and @JohnBucknell - We would love to hear your feedback on the wining team will statement and testing and judging criteria.

Hi @Basia, @Ed_Larson, @avi_loeb, @AquaDoc - You might have feedback to share on the above mentioned wining team will statement and testing and judging criteria for this prize.

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As the answer to the five questions: Is this an audacious prize competition? What are the innovation gaps in this area? What would the winning team need to do? What would be audacious but achievable targets? What is the expected impact of this prize?

In reference to the NASA In-Space Manufacturing Project and in reference to “Manufacturing In Outer Space: Not Such A Far-Out Idea” published by Forbes in 2021, here are some potential judging criteria:
Phase 1: In-Space Manufacturing Technology and Material Development

  1. 3D Printing in Zero-G Technology Demonstration
  2. Additive Manufacturing
  3. Multi-Material Fabrication with Printed Electronics

Phase 2: In-Space Recycling & Reuse Technology and Material Development

  1. ISS Refabricator Technology Demonstration
  2. Digital Design and Verification Database

Phase 3: Evaluation of the benefits of the projects based on Economic and Sustainability models

  1. Space as an enabler of green economies.
  2. Connectivity and communication in space (low-earth orbit satellites).
  3. The power of space to help society and world economies respond to pandemics.
  4. Commercial transportation services, space stations, etc.
  5. Asteroid mining and space resources advances.
  6. Increasing momentum for space exploration and settlement.
  7. Space tourism.
  8. Deep-space missions.

@Shashi @LBakerLyon

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Industrial 3D printer manufacturer AON3D is in the process of large-scale production of end-use thermoplastic parts, including the first 3D printed objects to successfully land on the moon. Read more.

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Hi @Visioneer1, @buzlityr, @Trend - Given your wide knowledge and experience in space, we would like to have your thoughts on innovation gaps in In-space manufacturing.

If XPRIZE runs a competition in in-space manufacturing, do you think it would be an audacious competition? if so, what are the likely impacts of such a competition?

We have prepared a draft prize metrics for this competition. It would be nice to have your feedback on it. Thanks.

Based on the Inputs and feedback received from the Brain Trust members and other experts, we have revised the wining-team-will-statement and testing and judging criteria. Following is the updated version:

Wining Team Will Statement:
Create the largest (by total area), rigid structure in low-Earth Orbit, that is resilient to solar radiation and temperature fluctuations, measuring “stiffness” and “shape” properties. with the highest production efficiency and material sustainability.

Prize Purse:
First Place: 1x 10M winning purse, 2x 5M finalist prize to subsidize space launch and produce 1 ton of product, 20x 500k semi-finalists prize to prototype on earth.

Total: 5-7 years.
2 years to prototype on Earth, 2 years to commission in space and 1 year to manufacture.

Testing and Judging Criteria:

  • In LEO or GEO

  • Utilizing any materials (Earth or Space),

  • Create the largest (by total area), rigid structure that is resilient to space hazards. Measuring and “stiffness” and “shape” properties.

    • Higher points to one continuous structure (no need for assembly)
  • With the highest production efficiency (from raw material to a finalized product): make the most with the least resources (including power and water inputs).

  • Highest sustainable scalability potential

    • Maximizing end-of-life circularity: e.g., reusable, high value recovery in recycling, biodegradable, etc.

@JohnBucknell, @akb, @interplanetary, @manuel.ntumba - It would be nice to hear your feedbacks on the listed wining-team-will-statement, prize purse, timeline, testing and judging criteria.

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Hi @Shashi - that’s a great challenge.

Re: Timeline 5-7 years.
It is an ambitious challenge, no doubt, but I wonder if some of the companies in that area will have deployed working solutions within five years. There are companies with (alleged) solutions / prototypes already.

In LEO or GEO - extra care might be required to ensure accidents don’t create space debris. In the worse case this could damage existing orbital assets. [Will insurance be required to cover such an accident, I wonder.]

What will happen to the construction after the challenge? Will it represent a useful object that is put into use; else, how will it be decommissioned safely?

Utilizing any materials (Earth or Space) - this might need to be two separate prizes, as the costs for one ton of resources might be significantly different depending on source; and the techniques to acquire space based material will be completely different (and probably much more challenging - but very useful in the future).

All good criteria. It might be worth quantifying some of those.

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The Green Moon Project studies the cultivation of vegetables on the Moon. Read more.

Hi @Spacearch, @alexanderghayes, @Visioneer1, @AngeloVermeulen - We would love to hear your feedback on the listed prize metrics for In-Space Manufacturing.

Winning Team Will Statement: Most efficiently create the largest (by total area), ≥300m in diameter, controllable radiofrequency dish in low-Earth orbit. The structure must be rigid, resilient, and sustainable.

Prize Purse: $20M

Timeline: 5 years

Testing & Judging:

  • In LEO, utilizing any materials (Earth or Space);
  • Create the largest (by total area), at least 300m in diameter, rigid radiofrequency dish that is resilient to solar radiation and temperature fluctuations
  • With the highest scores across:
    • Sustainability: demonstrating a controllable structure (of altitude), low reflectivity, and maximizing material circularity at end-of-life (EoL)
    • Production efficiency: make the most with the least
    • Scalability potential: detailing the business case and use cases.
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Hi @pjaffeva, @JohnBucknell, @akb, @interplanetary, @manuel.ntumba - Thank you for your inputs and feedback. Above is the final version of this prize sketch.

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