Non Terrestrial Based Printing

Non Terrestrial Based Printing

Northrop Grumman is a US Government Contractor. For this reason, this project is only open to students who are U.S. Citizens.

At Northrop Grumman, our work with cutting-edge technology is driven by something human: the lives our technology protects. It’s not the systems that drive us: it’s the soldier our systems bring home. It’s not just the equipment that motivates us: it’s the people our equipment protects. It’s not the innovation that gets us up in the morning: it’s whom those innovations serve. We’re united by our work to help people. And that mission makes our team even stronger.


Applications of additive manufacturing (AM) is advancing at an astounding pace. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) is already working with companies to print articles in space, and have successfully done so.  Printing in space saves considerable costs over building the articles on earth and then launching them to space.  Even sending compact raw materials into space for printing is costly, the ideal would be to obtain a significant amount of the materials from the celestial environment. Plus, the desire is to bypass shipping raw materials to a remote celestrial body, and rather “mine” the needed material from the local terrain.

Though space based systems are under development and operations by Industry, such as Made in Space Inc, the ability to develop a machine that is functional in non-teresstrial locations is not trivial.  In related work NASA, and others, are investigating using regolith materials that exist on those celestial bodies to print building blocks that resemble adobe bricks. This work is not intended to build regolith basedstructures, but to build highly refined smaller objects utilizing traditional material available from local the local environment.

We know that the regolith itself contains the right raw materials and elements that make up the same products that we feed in to our printers here on earth- both metallic and polymers. This project will attempt to determine that potential and assess the challenges associated with mining the materials out of that unlimited resource with the goal of designing a future lander with an on board AM fabrication facility. This would implemented autonomously on a pre-inhabited planet that would be part of a lander sent up long before we arrive. The team should baseline the earth’s moon, and can expand to the Mars location if time permits.

The student team investigation will begin with a broad review of materials available in lunar regolith, the capability of 3D printing technologies and the most beneficial types of fabricated objects.

More Information


Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign the following two documents in January 2018:

Click here to view Student IP Agreement

Click here to view NDA

How to Apply

Project Features

  • Skill level All levels
  • Students 5-7 Students
  • Likely Majors ChE, CHEM, ECE, EE, , MSE, ME
  • Course Substitutions Honors, ECE Cognate, CHEM 399, ME 490, ME 590
  • IP & NDA Required? Yes
  • Summer Opportunity Interview Guaranteed
  • Chemistry (3 Students)

    Inorganic, materials, and analytical chemistry.

    • Likely Majors: Chemistry, Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Geology
  • Process Development (2-3 Students)

    Separations, bulk processing, equipment development

    • Likely Majors: Chemical Engineering, Material Science,
  • Mechanical Design (1-2 Students)

    Mechanical Design, Manufacturing Process Equipment, mechatronics,

    • Likely Majors: Mechanical Engineering

Sponsor Mentor: Scott Strutner
Scott joined Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) after receiving a PhD at UCLA in Mechanical Engineering. While at NGC, he has worked in all three sectors of the company, and programs ranging from aircraft design, to radar and missile testing and now is engaged on additive manufacturing and small satellite projects.
Sponsor Mentor: Evan Tomita
Evan joined Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) after receiving a BSE in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan. While working at NGC, he has been involved in the Professional Development Program and has worked primarily in the Technology Services Sector as a Quality Systems Engineer. As a Systems Engineer, he has worked on a variety of programs and projects ranging from quality engineering and process improvements to web development and additive manufacturing.
Executive Mentor: Andrew Kwas
Engineering and Technology Strategist
Andrew Kwas graduated from the University of Michigan in 1980 with a Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering. He has 37 years with TRW/NGC working in advanced space projects, specializing in satellite development, astrophysics projects and missile systems. In Mr. Kwas’ role as a manager in Engineering and Technology, he supports NASA, AFRL, NRO, DARPA, SMDC, ORSO and the Navy on space related programs. Mr. Kwas is on the Technical Advisory Board for Cornell, U Michigan, Georgia Tech and U New Mexico. Mr. Kwas is considered one of the prominent small satellite experts in the country and has produced numerous papers on advanced satellite technology, in-space manufacturing using advanced additive manufacturing techniques, and miniaturization of components. He was appointed as a Research Professor at the University of New Mexico in satellite research. He is currently a member of Northrop Grumman Technical Services, supporting important Corporate acquisitions and developing advanced strategies.
Faculty Mentor: Mark Banaszak Holl
Professor of Chemistry, Director of Macromolecular Science and Engineering
Prof. Banaszak Holl has been a member of the Chemistry Department at the University of Michigan since 1995. The research program is focused in the areas of biological materials, nanotechnology for drug and gene delivery, and the structure of Type I collagen in bone and other tissues.