Client: NASA Competition 
Location: USA
Year of Completion: 2015
Team: space architects: Tomas Rousek, Donald C. Barker, Michael Fox, Sandra Haeuplik-Meusburger, Abhishek Jain, So Young Hyun, Kursad Ozdemir and company FoxLin architects.

3D-printed space habitat design concept


This project describes a design study for a 3D-printed module on Mars, constructed by 3D printing technology with the use of in-situ resources and equipped with a bio-regenerative life support system. The module would be a hybrid of deployable (CLASS II) and in-situ built (CLASS III) structures. It would combine deployable membrane structures and pre-integrated rigid elements with a sintered regolith shell for enhanced radiation and micrometeorite shielding. The closed loop ecological system would support a sustainable presence on the Mars with particular focus on ISRU research activities. The core module accommodates four people, and provides laboratories as a test bed for development of new technologies directly in the environment where they will be used. Project also includes a garden for food production and partially bio-regenerative life support system.




The design incorporates the use of indigenous, fine grained regolith as the sintering material. In our case, the JSC01 Mars simulant, mostly a basalt crystalline composition dust, is the best analogue. The structure will be built up from a thermal extrusion unit and platform that receives and process fine grained surface regolith from a surface excavation vehicle. The robotics 3D-printing unit is inspired by Sinterator technology proposed at NASA JPL using the ATHLETE rover which is a flexible multi-purpose platform that enables attachment of various tools including the 3D-printing head. The secondary rover with bulldozer and excavating capabilities would transfer and feed the material to 3D-priting platform.

The habitat module is attached to lander module and connects to its subsystems for higher redundancy and safety. On both sides of the habitat are pre-integrated rigid cylindrical elements that include ECLSS equipment and other subsystems. One of the cylinders has an attached inflatable external airlock.


The main driver of the shape of the module is shape of internal membrane. Thanks to more moderate temperatures than on Moon, it would be possible to allow for direct contact of internal membrane with regolith soil. The membrane will be used as mould to support construction of the roof.

Geometry of 3D printed shell has two parts – vertical walls and roof. Roof is in the shape of catenary arc curve to create self-supporting vault. Vertical walls allow integration of windows attached to the membrane.



Deployment and construction

The rigid cylinders will be brought by robots from cargo module to main lander module. After attaching to lander, the second cylinder will be moved and membrane will be pulled between the components. First the soil is gathered to the site and the walls are constructed around the membrane. The internal membrane will be then inflated and covered by the hardened soil to create the protective roof structure.


The interior is divided to 4 main parts – laboratory, living spaces, crew quarters and BLSS garden. The layout is organized around central core which is installed after inflation.

Laboratory: this room is designed as the main working area for crews, holding all necessary analytical and sample storage hardware. Laboratory is close to airlock and accommodates scientific laboratories, Space for EVA equipment and  workshop. This room has two windows (aligned for external lighting in case of base power/lighting failure).

Living Space: This is the largest space, which provides four crewmembers with living room, command center, exercise/medical, commons, kitchen, and master subsystem control area (e.g., ECLS, computers, power, water).

Crew quarters have water walls for additional radiation protection.

The garden serves for food production and partially bio-regenerative life support system. It accommodates modular hydroponics rack system and red LED ligthting to grow plants.

External Airlock is large enough to hold two, fully suited, standing crewmembers or one recumbent and one standing crewmember (emergency). The airlock is a full CO2 environment that transitions between surface pressure and approximately 9 psi, using filtered and compressed native Martian atmosphere (no consumables required). Crew power and life-support connections relieve suit consumable use. Once pressurized and cleaned of dust, crewmembers and samples can transition into the next volume.

Internal Airlock: The internal airlock works at a 100 percent, 9 psi, CO2 atmosphere. This room gives crews access to one integrated suit/sample-lock and a second suit-lock (docking-rear entry planetary pressure suits). This space has storage for two additional suits, cleaning and maintenance equipment and a portion of the environmental control and life support (ECLS) subsystem.



Based  on the Mars Base 10 research by Dr. Ondrej Doule, the recommended location is Western Olympus Mons Scarp  (19.6°N, 139.7°W), (WEH wt% = 5.79), (Altitude approx. -1.7 km MOLA). From the geology point of view, the location contains the late Amazonian piedmont glacial deposits, stratigraphy of Olympus Mons lava fl ows, talus deposits and Olympus Mons aureole. This area is a probable location of extinct life. Glacial deposits may be places for early life – if they had melted and provided liquid water.


Terrestrial analogue of Mars location could be Arizona desert or Dry Valleys in Antarctic. Dry Valleys provide some of the closest conditions to Mars, but the environmental protection and international treaties may pose big challenges for simulations.

Team Experience and Credentials:

Team consists of following space architects: Donald C. Barker, Michael Fox, Tomas Rousek, Sandra Haeuplik-Meusburger, Abhishek Jain, So Young Hyun, Kursad Ozdemir and company FoxLin architects.

Team leader Donald Barker holds Masters in physics, psychology, math and space architecture and is pursuing a PhD in planetary Geology. He has 22 years of engineering, operations and science experience across the ISS and Shuttle programs.

Michael Fox is an Associate Professor of Architecture and author of two books on Interactive Architecture.  He has led numerous Space Architecture related academic projects including the NASA sponsored X-Hab competition and the MUERP Zero-G flight sponsored by the Space Science Foundation.  He is the founder of FoxLin, Architects in California.  

Tomas Rousek is CEO at XTEND and A-ETC. He cooperated with NASA Hab team, ATHLETE robotics team and New Media Innovation team. He’s done research in robotic construction, membrane structures and 3D printing. He cooperated on SinterHab, design study of 3D printed lunar module demonstrating the potential of microwave sintering and robotic 3D printing technology proposed at NASA JPL.

Sandra Haeuplik-Meusburger is Assistant Professor in Architecture and authored two recent books on Space Architecture published by Springer. She has led design studios and worked on several aerospace design projects including ESA studies. With students she designed, built and tested a deployable emergency shelter prototype within a Mars Analog Field Simulation. As CEO of space-craft Architektur she currently works on a 3D dental technology project for Mars.