NASA Taps ICON to Develop Habitats in Space

A $57.2 million contract moves the needle toward living on the moon and Mars

The dream of settling on the moon is beginning to look more feasible. At the forefront of this development is NASA who has recently awarded a $52.7 million contract to the Austin, Texas-based startup ICON to create a lunar construction system for longterm human presence on the moon and Mars.

The contract is a continuation of ICON’s Project Olympus, a program (also partly funded by NASA) founded in 2020 working to build space-based habitats modeled on their innovative 3D-printed homebuilding system. As the first company to build a fully permitted 3D-printed home, designed in partnership with Bjarke Ingels Group, ICON is researching how their technology could be translated in space to build outposts, roads and launchpads. Already, they have 3D printed a 1,700-square-foot simulated Martian habitat, called Mars Dune Alpha, which will be used in NASA’s Crew Health and Performance Analog mission in 2023.

Studying lunar soil, regolith and lunar gravity, the company will explore how infrastructure can be built on the moon and Mars with resources that are already available there. The contract (which runs through 2028) marks a significant development and investment in creating a viable, livable environment beyond Earth.

“The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement,” says ICON’s co-founder and CEO, Jason Ballard. The nascent program’s achievements certainly speak to the promise of the new contract.

Images courtesy of ICON/Bjarke Ingels Group