(ORDO NEWS) — In anticipation of future space projects involving giant structures in orbit and on the Moon, DARPA has announced the launch of its New Orbital and Lunar Manufacturing, Materials and Mass Efficient Design (NOM4D, pronounced NOMAD) program. The new initiative aims to develop technologies for the adaptive production of large-scale structures in space.
One of the largest US military industrial contractors launches a massive program to develop a system for the construction of huge structures right in space
With the race to return to the Moon, the sending of an astronaut to Mars, and the rapid commercialization of Earth’s orbit, space technology is undergoing revolutionary changes. Not only are commercial companies launching record numbers of missions and satellites, but new classes of spacecraft are emerging on the scene.
On the one hand, more and more sophisticated nanosatellites are emerging, but there is also a need for much larger spacecraft and lunar surface structures than ever before. The challenge is not only how to build rockets large enough to put such installations into orbit, but also how to ensure that the payload is retained at launch, which means a loss of large volume and mass, which would only take a few minutes.
For example, there is the International Space Station, which weighs about 420 tons. It was not launched immediately, but as a series of modules delivered by the space shuttle and other accelerators. This is one of the ways to create such structures, but each of these modules had to correspond to the overall and mass parameters of the launch vehicle and have a structure strong enough to withstand overloads and vibrations to get to the destination in working order. Once in space, all this power is no longer required.
NOM4D seeks to take a different approach, not just assembling modules built on Earth, but also moving production off-Earth to create large dynamic structures for the US Department of Defense that can adapt as the environment or mission changes. The idea is that modern materials will be sent from Earth and then used to build large structures. In this way, it is possible to build things like antennas and solar panels that are larger than those assembled on Earth, yet much lighter, with more stability, agility and adaptability.
The assumption underlying the program is that by 2030, space will improve in terms of logistics and equipment, including fast and frequent orbital launches, regular flights to the moon, refueling of spacecraft in orbit, and robots capable of building structures in space. … In addition, it will be possible to evaluate and monitor transactions in real time.
Participants in the NOM4D program will go through a three-step process, where each phase lasts 18 months and focuses on a specific concept. Phase I will include achieving structural efficiency targets for a 1 megawatt solar array; Phase II will focus on risk mitigation and technical development of a 100 meter wide RF reflector; Phase III will demonstrate the ability to build an infrared reflective structure for a segmented longwave infrared telescope. Each step will require technical compliance and ground production of sub-scale demonstration structures to validate them.
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