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Austin-based ICON awarded $57.2 million NASA contract for lunar construction tech

ICON’s vision for Olympus, the multi-purpose ISRU-based lunar construction system

ICON, a construction tech company that’s raised more than $400 million in funding, has landed a new contract from NASA to develop new systems to build on the moon and Mars.

The $57.2 million contract is a continuation of a previous Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) dual-use contract with the U.S. Air Force, which was partly funded by NASA. This award will support the development of what ICON is calling “Project Olympus,” an ambitious plan to build structures on the moon and Mars using in-situ resources.

“To change the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back again’ to ‘there to stay,’ we’re going to need robust, resilient, and broadly capable systems that can use the local resources of the Moon and other planetary bodies,” ICON CEO Jason Ballard said in a statement. It’s clear that NASA agrees. Indeed, the agency has explicitly stated that one of the goals of its ambitious Artemis lunar program is to establish a long-term human presence on the moon. But as of yet, NASA has established no clear plans on where those astronauts will stay once they get there.

ICON, which is best-known for its 3D-printed homes, has been working on Project Olympus for some time. The company was awarded the initial SBIR grant from the U.S. Air Force in October 2020 for $14.55 million. This latest funding will keep the project alive for a handful more years at least: the contract runs through 2028.

Under the terms of this contract, ICON will be working with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, under an agency venture called the “Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technologies” project. The company is planning on working with samples of lunar regolith and bringing its hardware and software into space to help it develop construction approaches that can best function in the cold, low-gravity atmosphere of the moon. Habitats aren’t the only thing on the company’s radar: it’s also eyeing up landing pads and other infrastructure to support sustained lunar exploration.

ICON has seen explosive growth since its founding in late 2017. The company landed a $207 million Series B last August, and closed another $185 million scarcely six months later. Sources told TechCrunch that the latest funding pushed ICON’s valuation close to $2 billion.