Deep Space Challenge by NASA sees numerous Competitors leveraging 3Dprinting

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In the second half of this decade, there will be numerous space launches by NASA,
A sustainable food system is important in supporting earth’s off-world exploration.
While early Moon missions will start by using prepackaged food systems like those used by the international space station today, increased mission time will involve reducing resupply dependency on the earth.
For this reason,

NASA is directing efforts towards technologies aimed at providing crew members with a sustainable food system.
One of such initiatives is the Deep Space Food Challenge,

an innovative competition to produce unique technologies to feed astronauts during long-duration space missions.
On October 20, 2021,
NASA disclosed the selection of eighteen Phase 1 winning teams to receive individual $25,000 awards and recognized 10 international submissions at this year’s competition hosted in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
Some of the innovative concepts include 3D printed artificial soil, bipods for growing vegetables and meat.
coordinating with the CSA, NASA launched the competition back in January 2021,

the first Phase involved asking the innovators to design food production systems requiring minimal resources,

producing insignificant waste and optimizing safe,

nutritious and palatable food outputs for long-duration space missions that could prove advantageous to people back on Earth.

Specifically, the challenge needed the system to fill food gaps for a 3 year round trip mission for a four-man crew with no resupply.
multiple winning designs used materials such as bread and dehydrated powders that could be processed into more complex food products.
At least eight projects leveraged additive manufacturing technologies in a wide range of food-related categories.
this includes

Mission: Space Food (California)

A collection of food, space and technology experts developing an integrative approach to human nutrition in space
Using food tech Aleph farms ( the startup made headlines after disclosing that actor Leonardo Dicaprio was one of its backers) technology platform and culinary innovation company Astrea’s engineering know-how,

The team created a closed-loop system to harvest and cook mouth-watering steaks for astronauts on space missions,

this method enables a crew to rate meat with almost 1000 times fewer inputs than conventional pasture-based cattle farming by producing mear from pluripotent stem cells using bioreactors and cell cryopreservation.

, the system can be adapted to grow other such meat like lamb or pork. increasing further the choice of food.

BeeHex (Ohio)

A spinoff company of NASA BeeHex is a designer and producer of 3D equipment, designed a Universal Food Fabricator (UFF).
A multifunctional system can dehydrate plants and cultured meats into powder form foods, keep them in hermetically sealed cartridges to increase shelf life for up to five years,

and fabricate food using stored food in the cartridge when needed.

the project emphasizes safe nutritious foods needing minimal inputs, equipping astronauts with an adaptive tool for their essential needs.
Since its creation back in 2017,

BeeHex has leveraged 3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning to automate personalized nutrition. even developing a system that creates bespoke nutrition bars.

Space Lab Cafe (Colorado)

The Space Lab Cafe is a novel crop manufacturing system from Space Lab Technologies, is a compact vertical farm that repeatedly produces a wide array of nutritious produce with minimal waste, power or processing time.

The best part of it is that it can operate with or without gravity in a Martian, Lunar,

or spacecraft habitat while yielding farm to table solutions for harsh environments and earth’s urban centres.

Since Space Lab has evolved 3D printing capabilities for rapid prototyping, which reinforces numerous low and high-temperature filaments, resins for silicon oxide (SiO2) ceramics, aerospace-grade materials, and FDA-approved biocompatible materials,

the company will surely leverage the technology for the Deep Space Food Challenge as well.

KEETA ( Thailand)

A team of Thai aerospace engineers introduced a 3D printed food system that uses output sourced from an interdependent micro-ecosystem to produce an assortment of nutrient-rich food.

Electric Cow (Germany)

while relatively little is known about this team and project. what is known is that it will convert waste streams and carbon dioxide into food with the help of additive manufacturing and food-grade microorganisms.

Interstellar Labs (Carlifonia)

it is aimed at developing advanced environmentally controlled greenhouses called bio pods made to grow vegetables, plants, fruits and flowers anywhere.
interstellar Lab is known to use 3D printing technologies to develop the membranes and material systems of its BioPods.

The company also hopes to 3D print its Mars simulators,

called Experimental Bioregenerative Station (EBios), designed as the first closed-loop, environment-controlled societies on Earth. With a dream team of 15 former SpaceX, Disney, Airbus, and Thales employees,

Interstellar Lab is anticipating scaling the production of BioPods through AM to meet the increasing demand for food on Earth and off-world.

Alsec (Colombia)

Alsec Alimentos Secocs plans to introduce a food production system that combines four exponential technologies: Additive manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence,

microencapsulation and nanotechnology to formulate and develop organic, natural and very nutritious powdered foods.

BigRedBites (Newyork)

Hailing from Cornell University’s College of Engineering.
The team aims to focus on the design of a symbiotic system of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), yeast, plants, mushrooms with a processing unit to yield fresh and nutritious produce that meets fifteen per cent of the standard caloric needs of astronauts.

The project required 3D printed artificial soil and symbiotic co-dependent to optimize each subsystem’s minimal external inputs and waste.

Source: NASA, Youtube

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