Russia Plans Building “Large 3D-printed Structures” on the Moon

Russia’s Roscosmos has announced plans to support long-term lunar missions by 3D printing structures made from on-site material, Newsweek writes.

The space corporation’s declaration adds to plans made by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) that also intend to use Lunar or Martian regolith, which is the dusty layer of material covering the bedrock of a planet, as source material for 3D printers on the Moon and Mars.

According to Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin, current plans say Russian cosmonauts will land on the Moon for the first time in 2030. 3D printing could be used to create new parts for lunar technologies, as well as to repair equipment, thus reducing the need for costly resupply missions from Earth, Rogozin said.

In late 2018, the Space Council within the Russian Academy of Sciences adopted a concept of the domestic lunar program but issued instructions to supplement it. Roscosmos said at the time that this program would be implemented in several stages by 2040.

Russia’s current lunar plan is to develop a new heavy-lift launch vehicle over the next decade and use it to create the permanent base on the surface. Roscosmos has joined forces with other countries’ space agencies on the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a project to build a manned space station orbiting the Moon.

The Gateway would serve as a relay point for missions to the Earth’s satellite and beyond, where spacecraft could be refueled. The plan is for Russia to provide several modules for the station, but it risked landing in disarray after Roscosmos put the collaboration in question last September.

Earlier, Russian spacecraft maker Lavochkin Research and Production Association suggested that lunar construction should be carried out with the help of a solar-powered 3D printer that uses regolith as fodder.