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DARPA Launches Program to Manufacture Large Systems in Space

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has selected eight industry and university research teams to support a new program for designing new technologies to build large structures on orbit.

The Novel Orbital Moon Manufacturing, Materials, and Mass Efficient Design will focus on on-orbit manufacturing of large space and lunar structures to address size constraints that limit the production and launch of such systems, DARPA said Wednesday.

The three-phase NOM4D research will primarily focus on developing in-space materials and manufacturing technologies and exploring new mass-efficient designs.

Phase I will concentrate on meeting structural efficiency targets for a 1 MW solar array, phase II will center on the development of radio frequency reflectors and phase III will demonstrate precision for infrared reflectors.

The first set of teams comprises HRL Laboratories, Physical Sciences Inc., Teledyne Scientific Company, the University of Florida and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The second group includes Opterus Research and Development Inc., the University of Michigan and the California Institute of Technology.

“NOM4D aims to enable a new paradigm where future structures that support DoD space systems are built off-Earth using designs optimized for the space environment, shedding launch constraints. This would enable enhanced capability, improved robustness, operation in higher orbits, and future cislunar applications,” said Bill Carter, NOM4D program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office.