Space industry experiences renewed interest to return to the Moon. One of the goals of NASA’s Artemis project is to establish a permanent lunar settlement by the year 2028. Other entities aim to mine lunar resources, perform scientific experiments and send tourists to the Moon. All of these initiatives share a common bottleneck, which is very high launch costs. In order to minimize the costs, equipment should be produced on the Moon as much as possible by using local materials. One type of materials that can be produced are fibre-based materials, which are used extensively on Earth and will find various usages on the Moon as well. Such materials are developed by the MoonFibre project.
The MoonFibre project is jointly developed by Institute für Textiltechnik and Institute for Structural Design and Lightweight Design of RWTH Aachen University. It aims to develop a technology that can produce fibre-based materials from lunar regolith using only energy as input. Possible use-cases for these materials include filters, fibre-reinforced structures, hydroponic substrates or insulation materials. In this way, the MoonFibre project aims to reduce the cost and increase the sustainability of lunar settlements.
To achieve the required microgravity we turned to the REXUS/BEXUS student programme. The REXUS/BEXUS programme is realised under a bilateral Agency Agreement between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Swedish National Space Agency (SNSA). The Swedish share of the payload has been made available to students from other European countries through a collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA).
Experts from DLR, SSC, ZARM and ESA provide technical support to the student teams throughout the project. EuroLaunch, the cooperation between the Esrange Space Center of SSC and the Mobile Rocket Base (MORABA) of DLR, is responsible for the campaign management and operations of the launch vehicles. We are participating in the current Rexus 30/31 programm and IMFEX shall fly on REXUS 30 in March 2022.
The team formed independently of the Space Team Aachen. Today, it is a cooperation project between IMFEX, the Space Team Aachen and the MoonFibre Project.