DARPA’s new study to enable a shared lunar infrastructure

The agency will share its findings with NASA in order to help with the Artemis program, which aims to develop a permanent lunar colony.
Chris Young
An artist's impression of a future Moon landing.
An artist's impression of a future Moon landing.

3DSculptor / iStock 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is starting a study catered toward developing an "analytical framework" for the development of integrated lunar infrastructure over the next ten years, a press statement reveals.

DARPA announced the study, called the '10-Year Lunar Architecture', or 'Luna-10', on August 15. In the statement, it announced it is looking for ideas for lunar power, communications, and navigation infrastructure.

The agency aims to convene a group to develop these ideas with a view to making them commercially available by 2035.

Working toward a self-sufficient lunar economy

In an interview with SpaceNews, Michael Nayak, the DARPA program manager leading LunA-10, explained that the Luna-10 study will define a "commercial end state" for lunar infrastructure in 10 years. "This is the end state at which we have a self-sufficient lunar economy," he explained.

The goal will be to work backward from that point to see what technology is needed to help create that self-sufficient economy.

Nayak also revealed that DARPA is working alongside NASA and that any findings will be shared with the space agency and will be complementary to its own architecture 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,” Nayak told SpaceNews.

NASA aims to establish a permanent lunar colony

One of the goals for DARPA with Luna-10 is also to develop technology that could be re-purposed for defense capabilities on Earth.

For example, the study could develop thermal management technologies for power systems on the Moon. These, in turn, could be used on Earth for other means, such as communications and navigation services, Nayak explained.

In its announcement, DARPA stated that the new study is firmly "grounded" in Article 4 of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which states that the Moon should only be explored for peaceful purposes and that lunar military bases are forbidden.

DARPA also announced it aims to select the organizations that will work on Luna-10 at the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC) in Pittsburgh, on October 10-11. The final report for Luna-10 is currently scheduled for June 2024.

NASA will be keeping a keen eye on the study as it is working on the technologies that will make a permanent lunar colony possible. Following its Artemis III lunar landing, the space agency aims to establish a permanent presence on the Moon, which will serve as a stepping stone for human exploration of Mars and beyond.

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