Selective Separation Sintering (SSS), a new 3D-printing process developed by Behrokh Khoshnevis to enable the construction of physical structures in space has recently won the first place in the NASA In-Situ Materials Challenge. The NASA competition mandated that competitors use materials found on the Moon and Mars – regolith or crushed basalt rock— to develop a cement-like building material without water in a zero-gravity environment.
Khoshnevis, the two-time NASA competition winner, Dean’s Professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering, Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering and Astronautics Engineering, and the Director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT) and his team developed “a robotic fabrication process” that uses high melting point ceramics such as magnesium oxide (readily available on the Moon and Mars) and ordinary regolith (planetary soil) to produce tiles that could withstand the heat and pressure of exhaust plume of landing spacecraft (Selective Separation Sintering (SSS).
Khoshnevis demonstrated in a NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) research project that Contour Crafting can use a mix of sulfur and regolith to build structures such as walls and hangers on the moon and Mars. He estimates that his team’s innovation could reduce the need for sending cargo from earth thus could save agencies such as NASA considerable funds. Khoshnevis believes the SSS process his team created offers certain advantages, including speed, independence from expensive laser and electron beam technologies (and perhaps greater accuracy than these methods).