"Voices from DARPA" Podcast, Episode 68: Space Manufacturing

Imagine you are going to space. There is a long list of items and supplies you definitely will need, but there is an even longer list of things you might need, depending on how your mission progresses. This includes known unknowns like fuel for unplanned maneuvering, replacement parts or tools, and a wide range of other products that could be useful, but may not be utilized. The current paradigm is to pack everything you might possibly need, but this approach is complex and logistically burdensome.

Imagine instead that you pack only fermentation equipment, feedstocks, and a freezer full of microbes that each convert the feedstock into a different useful molecule, material, or product so you have everything you might need and can produce it on demand.

Or what if you could enable a new paradigm where future space structures – that are much too large to launch on a rocket – are built off-Earth using materials and designs optimized for the space environment?

This Voices from DARPA episode features discussions with Dr. Andy Detor, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office, as well as Dr. Anne Cheever, program manager in the Biological Technologies Office. Detor runs the Novel Orbital Moon Manufacturing, Materials, and Mass Efficient Design, or NOM4D program. Cheever heads up the Biomanufacturing: Survival, Utility, and Reliability beyond Earth, or B-SURE, program. While neither program is conducting manufacturing in space, both are supporting proof of concept studies to determine whether it might be feasible in the future.