Drake State to Partner with Marshall Space Fight Center in Historic Agreement

Drake State Community & Technical College is shooting for the Moon and has set a historic precedent on the way.

Marshall Space Flight Center selected Drake State as a partner to develop 3D printing technologies that will help prepare for sustainable Artemis operations on the Moon by the end of the decade and for future human missions to Mars. 

With the selection, Drake State becomes the first community college and only Historically Black Community College to receive a cooperative agreement award from Marshall’s Cooperative Agreement Notice program since its inception in 2013.

“Being Huntsville’s community college, we’re especially proud to have received this CAN award,” said Dr. Patricia Sims, President of Drake State Community & Technical College. “We’ve  been a part of the Rocket City since 1961. The opportunity to support NASA with our research  project is truly exciting.”

Drake State submitted a proposal to Marshall’s seventh competitive CAN for Dual-Use Technology Development solicitation. The award will fund collaborative research in support of NASA’s Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction  Technologies project. This project aims to develop, deliver, and demonstrate capabilities to protect astronauts and create infrastructure on the lunar surface via construction of landing pads, habitats, shelters, roadways, berms and blast shields using lunar regolith-based materials. 

The research team consists of students, instructors and administrators from the college’s  Engineering Design program. It will test 3D printed concrete structures to help develop  construction techniques suitable for building landing pads, roads, and other large structures on the Moon. 

The one-year research project is funded through NASA’s Minority University Research and  Education Project. The research team will collaborate with ICON, an innovative 3D printing construction company in Austin, Texas. ICON is working with NASA on early research  and development of a space-based construction system that could support exploration of the Moon and Mars.

“Our team will use 3D printing technology to build concrete structures, conduct destructive and  non-destructive testing, and collect and analyze data on the material that ICON produces,” said Robert Grissim, Director of Workforce Development at Drake State Community & Technical  College and Principle Investigator. 

Additionally, instructors in the Engineering Design program will develop curriculum related to the research project and add the specialty classes to the College’s course catalog. 

“Our goal is to continue to support the Artemis mission and NASA after our research project is completed,” said Dr. Carolyn Henderson, Dean of Instruction at Drake State Community &  Technical College. “Training our students to work in space-based construction technology will create a pipeline to a workforce skilled in this highly-specialized field.”