DARPA Initiates Study For Lunar Infrastructure Development Framework

A project to create a “analytical framework” to direct the development of integrated lunar infrastructure over the following ten years is being launched by DARPA.

DARPA Initiates Study For Lunar Infrastructure Development Framework

A project to create a “analytical framework” to direct the development of integrated lunar infrastructure over the following ten years is being launched by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

DARPA unveiled the 10-Year Lunar Architecture on August 15, or LunA-10, initiative, asking for suggestions from both consumers and future providers of lunar power, communications, navigation, and other infrastructure.

According to a press statement from the agency, a team will be chosen to collaborate on “new integrated system-level solutions that span multiple services” and will be made commercially accessible by 2035.

In an interview, Michael Nayak, the DARPA program manager in charge of LunA-10, mentioned how numerous businesses are focusing on different parts of that infrastructure independently. We intend to include such businesses into LunA-10 and create a consortium, he continued. An example of how those ideas may be combined would be a lunar power unit that also broadcasts communications and navigational signals.

A “commercial end state” for lunar infrastructure in 10 years will also be defined by the research. He stated, “This is the end state at which we have a self-sufficient lunar economy,” enabling the project to proceed backwards from there to determine what technology is required to achieve that and pinpoint any gaps.

The study was divided “50-50” between technology and economics, according to him. “I do want to examine both: a financially closed, engineering-rooted analysis.”

Such a research would seem to be within NASA’s purview, since the agency has been working on a thorough architecture for lunar and Martian exploration, the first stage of which it unveiled in April. Nayak said that DARPA and NASA were working together on this project and referred to LunA-10 as an addition to NASA’s architectural studies.

“We set out to talk with NASA, figure out what they’re doing, figure out what their roadmap is, and then see if there are other complementary investments that we can make to significantly advance the state of the art that are sort of in line with your typical DARPA mission,” the official said.

He said that he has been directly collaborating with Niki Werkheiser, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s director of technology maturation, on planning for LunA-10 and utilizing the organization’s knowledge of pertinent technologies.

In order to achieve future architectural goals, DARPA is concentrating on technological maturation for lunar capabilities.

Finding technologies with possible uses for national security is the goal of the project. For example, sophisticated thermal management technologies may be created for the power systems that operate the moon’s navigation and communications systems. The military community anticipates significant takeaways from this study, with an emphasis on framing issues for future advancement.

Article 4 of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which specifies that the moon and other celestial bodies would be used solely for peaceful reasons and precludes the creation of military sites and the testing of weapons there, was underlined by DARPA in the release as the study’s “grounded” legal basis.

Three-page abstracts are being requested by DARPA and are due on September 6. Some of the people who submitted abstracts will then be asked to write 10-page white papers and technical presentations, which are due on September 25. At the autumn conference of the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC), which is set for October 10–11 in Pittsburgh, DARPA aims to choose the individuals who will work on the project.

At the LSIC conference in April 2024, according to Nayak, LunA-10 would deliver a “80% product” of the research in order to provide “some things that the community can go think about and show our work.” In June 2024, a final report is expected.