Rhizome: Development of an Autarkic Design-to-Robotic-Production and -Operation System for Building Off-Earth Habitats

Year: 2020
Project leader: Henriette Bier
Project team RB: Henriette Bier, Arwin Hidding, Max Latour, Vera Laszlo and MSc students
Collaborators / Partners:  AE, 3ME, and CiTG from TUD, 3D Robot Printing, KitePower, and ESA
Funding: 100K from ESA

In order for off-Earth top surface structures built from regolith to protect astronauts from radiation, they need to be several meters thick. TUD proposes to excavate into the ground to create subsurface habitats. By excavating not only natural protection from radiation can be achieved but also thermal insulation because the temperature is more stable underground. At the same time through excavation valuable resources can be mined for in situ resource utilization (ISRU). The idea is that a swarm of autonomous mobile robots developed at ESA and/or TUD (https://tudelftroboticsinstitute.nl/robots/zebro) excavate the ground in a sloped downwards spiral movement. The excavated regolith will be mixed with liquid sulphur to create concrete, which is then 3D printed to create a structure in the excavated tunnels. As soon as the tunnels are printed, the material in-between the tunnels can be removed in order to create a larger cavity that can be used for inhabitation. While excavation is implemented in a downwards spiral movement, the printing follows an upwards spiral and it relies on Design-to-Robotic-Production and -Operation (D2RP&O) technology developed at TUD (http://www.roboticbuilding.eu/project/scalable-porosity/). The rhizomatic 3D printed structure is a structurally optimized porous shell structure with increased insulation properties. In order to regulate the indoor pressurized environment an inflatable structure is placed in the 3D printed cavity. This inflatable structure is made of materials, which can also be at some point reproduced on Mars through ISRU. Depending on the location the habitat and the production system are powered by the automated kite-power system (on Mars) and/or solar panels developed at ESA and TUD (http://www.kitepower.eu/home.html, etc.). The ultimate goal is to develop an autarkic D2RP&O system for building off-earth subsurface autarkic habitats from locally obtained materials.

(Read more) http://cs.roboticbuilding.eu/index.php/Shared:2019Final