Fast-forward ten years: you’re settled into a comfy chair inside a permanent lunar ground station, and you find out that the internet service is lousy.
Those and other off-Earth problems are what’s on the mind of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which announced this week that it’s soliciting input for a new capability study aimed at how to “rapidly develop foundational technology” for lunar infrastructure over the next ten years.
The immediate aim of the effort, DARPA said, is “soliciting innovative and revolutionary technical approaches to chart a vision and path toward an optimized and integrated lunar infrastructure for peaceful U.S. and international use.”
The longer-term goals are a bit more out of this world.
The agency’s ten-year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) capability study is looking for tech concepts that “move away from individual scientific efforts within isolated, self-sufficient systems, toward a series of shareable, scalable systems that interoperate — minimizing lunar footprint and creating monetizable services for future lunar users.”
“A large paradigm shift is coming in the next ten years for the lunar economy,” declared Dr. Michael “Orbit” Nayak, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office.
“To get to a turning point faster, LunA-10 uniquely aims to identify solutions that can enable multi-mission lunar systems – imagine a wireless power station that can also provide comms and navigation in its beam,” he said.
Nayak recounted DARPA’s 65 years of work on space travel tech, and said, “LunA-10 continues this rich legacy by identifying and accelerating key technologies that may be used by government and the commercial space industry, and ultimately to catalyze economic vibrancy on the Moon.”
DARPA’s seven-month study is seeking input across a wide range of topics including “transit, energy, communications, and other revolutionary orbital or surface infrastructure concepts,” that can then be used as “key nodes that can be scaled up in the future,” the agency said.
“Just like DARPA’s foundational node of ARPANET grew into the sprawling web of the internet, LunA-10 is looking for those connective nodes to support a thriving commercial economy on the Moon,” Nayak said.
The LunaA-10 project will select companies with “a clear vision and technically rigorous business plan for providing or using one or more lunar services, and then fuel them to work together in a highly collaborative environment,” the agency said.
As part of the study, DARPA is soliciting three-page abstracts due by September 6. After that submission, respondents will be invited to submit 10-page white papers and technical presentations due by September 25.
Selected white papers will then be given Other Transaction awards that can be worth up to $1 million each. All respondents chosen for this award will be announced during the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC) in October.
DARPA said it expects to make final analytical frameworks for lunar infrastructure available to the public.