14 businesses, from start-ups to well-established aerospace enterprises, have been chosen by DARPA to take part in a study on creating commercial lunar infrastructure.
14 businesses will work together for the next seven months on DARPA’s 10-Year Lunar Architecture, or LunA-10, research, the agency announced on December 5. The project, which was revealed in August, aims to create an integrated architecture by the middle of the 1930s to enable a commercial lunar economy.
Michael Nayak, the DARPA program manager for LunA-10, stated in a statement that “LunA-10 has the potential to upend how the civil space community thinks about spurring widespread commercial activity on and around the Moon within the next 10 years.”
The 14 businesses that were chosen are:
- CisLunar Industries
- Blue Origin
- Crescent Space Services LLC
- Fly Aerospace, Inc.
- Fibertek, Inc.
- Honeybee Robotics
- American Nokia
- Grumman Northrop
- Redwire Enterprise
- Sierra Space
“A clear vision and technically rigorous plan for advancing quickly towards our goal: a self-sustaining, monetizable, commercially owned-and-operated lunar infrastructure,” Nayak said in a statement about the firms.
The statement did not go into detail about each company’s responsibilities, but Nayak said in a presentation last month at the Beyond Earth Symposium that companies were chosen to work in six areas: market analysis; mining and in situ resource utilization (ISRU); power; transit, mobility, and logistics; and communications and navigation.
Certain firms have revealed information regarding their participation in LunaA-10. As part of the investigation, Colorado-based startup CisLunar Industries said it will develop what it refers to as the Material Extraction, Treatment, Assembly and Logistics, or METAL, architecture for lunar resources.
Based on its Elytra series of spacecraft, Firefly Aerospace stated in a statement that it will design a “aggregated hub of on-orbit spacecraft that dock together and offer on-demand services”. Firefly CEO Bill Weber said in a statement, “We’ve identified a path to drastically improve on-orbit mission response times from years to days with scalable spacecraft hubs that can host and service spacecraft across cislunar space.”
ICON, a construction technology company, stated that it will use its expertise in 3D-printed construction technologies to its advantage in LunA-10. According to a statement from ICON’s vice president of strategic research and development, Evan Jensen, “we can understand what inputs are going to be available, when, at what cost, and in what quantities by participating in LunA-10.”
Sierra Space stated that it will concentrate on integrating technology to remove oxygen from the regolith on the moon. Tom Vice, the chief executive of Sierra Space, stated in a company statement, “At Sierra Space we recognize that there is a critical need for ISRU oxygen technology on the lunar surface to enable humanity’s extended exploration of space, given its strategic importance in terms of mobility, life support systems, and potential commercial applications.”
The objective of LunA-10 is to integrate the various technologies and areas of knowledge that firms are contributing to the project. “Is it possible for us to compile a portfolio of artists who collaborate and interact with one another as models and representatives of this community?” During the symposium, Nayak said. Together, the businesses hope to be able to “tell you what a lunar economy could look like by 2035, down to the gram, watt, and dollar.”
Gary Calnan, CEO of CisLunar Industries, remarked, “DARPA finally did what the industry was waiting for.” The LunA-10 team did an excellent job of bringing together 14 businesses that represent different but complimentary aspects of the lunar economy of the future. The groundwork for a marketplace in which all of space domain will be able to engage will be laid by this endeavor.
The value of the LunA-10 awards was not disclosed by DARPA or the businesses; however, the August request stated that the shortlisted companies would be eligible for agreements valued at no more than $1 million each.
At a meeting of the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium in April 2024—a NASA-funded project to develop technology in many of the same fields as the DARPA study—the LunA-10 participants will talk about their findings. In June 2024, the businesses will submit their final report to DARPA.