US Government Authorizes Moon Express to Send Robotic Spacecraft with 3D Printed Components to the Moon in 2017

Share this Article

moon-express-moon-logoCould it really be possible that within the next decade, you can actually book a flight to the moon? Naveen Jain, the co-founder of privately funded commercial space company Moon Express, thinks so. He sees moon exploration as part of a ten-year vision that could span anywhere from research facilities for Mars-bound technologies, to an exotic honeymoon vacation destination. What’s even more amazing is that you could fly to the moon on a rocket made with 3D printed parts!

naveen-jain-moon-expressThe California-based company submitted its historic application for a commercial lunar mission in early April of this year. After many in-depth consultations with the FAA, the White House, the State Department, NASA, and other federal agencies, Moon Express got the green light they were looking for. In mid-2016, the US government made a monumental policy decision and gave the company authorization for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft with 3D printed components. It will travel beyond Earth’s orbit and land on the moon’s surface in 2017. Just in case you may have forgotten, 2017 will be here in less than a month!

Until now, all commercial companies have been limited to operations within Earth’s orbit; only governments have sent missions to other worlds. So Moon Express is the first private company to receive approval for a commercial mission of lunar exploration and discovery. Jain is eyeing SpaceX for a launch partner, as the two companies have similar reasons for getting involved in private space exploration: multi-planetary habitation as a backup plan for the survival of humanity. If all goes well in the space tourism economy, Jain hopes that tourists will be able to book a flight to the moon by 2026 for $10,000 a seat, and stay in a hotel in orbit above the Earth.

rocketlab

Rocket Lab booster

But first things first: with a launch goal of 2017, Moon Express plans to send a rover to the lunar surface, to start searching for the best locations for future operations, like mining iron ore. The first rocket Moon Express plans to use for their historic private mission, their MX-1 lander (perched atop a Rocket Lab Electron booster), will cost about $5 million. But Jain expects the price to drop, with the same spacecraft budgeted to run $2 million within five years.

rutherford1So let’s go back to the Rocket Lab Electron booster for a minute. The New Zealand company’s Rutherford engine, which is capable of 4,600 lbs. of thrust and uses a battery-powered, electric turbo pump to drive its propulsion, is the first rocket to have all of its fundamental components 3D printed, including the injector, pumps, and main propellant valves. It takes just three days to print, and the company is ready to take it to the moon.

For the first stage of the 20-meter carbon composite Electron rocket‘s journey into space, nine Rutherford engines will be used, with an entirely new propulsion cycle: its high-performance electric propellant pumps reduce the overall mass and replace clunky hardware with lightweight software. For the second stage, a special variation of the Rutherford will be used, made to survive the vacuum of space travel. Though it’s lightweight, the Electron rocket is capable of delivering 100kg payloads to a 500km sun-synchronous orbit (in lower Earth orbits, that’s the same as 400kg payloads).

With their 2017 lunar mission, Moon Express will compete for the Google Lunar XPrize, a $20 million race to be the first team to put a robotic lander on the moon, and drive it 1,640 feet while beaming HD video back to Earth. Second place is worth $5 million, and another $5 million awarded for achieving various goals. Discuss in the Moon Express forum at 3DPB.com.

[Sources: Moon Express; Next Big Future]

electronrocket

Facebook Comments

Share this Article


Recent News

The NASA BioFabrication Facility Launches Today: Will Use Microgravity to Grow Heart Tissue in Space

DiManEx Supplied Over 60 3D Printed Interior Parts for Lightyear One Solar Car Prototype



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Interview with Tendai Pasipanodya on Integrating 3D Printing with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

  Tendai Pasipanodya It is interesting to note there are ideas of integrating 3D printing with UN’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and that it can be a useful tool to...

3D Printing & the Circular Economy, Part 5 – Human Development Index

This is an article that talks about the importance of the Human Development Index as it relates to the Circular Economy.

Aerosint and InfraTrac Extending Chemical Tagging in Parts 3D Printed with Powder Bed Fusion

I can’t think of a single person who likes getting the automated reminder that it’s time to change their password, which includes the many instructions on what does and doesn’t...

Premium AEROTEC Partnering with Lockheed Martin to Search for 3D Printing Opportunities on the F-35

The Paris Air Show ended over a week ago, but event news from the 3D printing industry continues to fly in as we hear about more investment and partnership announcements. The...


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.


Print Services

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our 3DPrint.com.

You have Successfully Subscribed!