MOONRISE: Bringing 3D printing to the moon

The balls look inconspicuous – but they are unique in the world. They consist of moon dust, melted under lunar gravity as part of the MOONRISE project. This so far unique experiment was carried out by the Laser Zentrum Hannover eV (LZH) together with the Institute for Space Systems (IRAS) of the Technical University of Braunschweig in the Einstein Elevator of the Hannover Institute of Technology (HITec) of the Leibniz University of Hannover (LUH).

“With these spheres, we have come a big step closer to 3D printing on the moon!” Explains Niklas Gerdes, research assistant at the LZH. Synthetically produced lunar dust, the so-called regolith, was melted with a laser system developed by the LZH, both under lunar and microgravity.

Material samples adapted to possible landing site

The IRAS scientists have compiled the material samples for the experiments. “The composition of the lunar dust differs depending on the landing site of a possible lunar mission,” explains Prof. Dr.-Ing. Enrico Stoll from the IRAS. “With our mixtures, we simulate the lunar conditions as precisely as possible. We then evaluate the quality of the melted samples so that the LZH can further improve the process. “

First scientific experiment in the Einstein elevator

Melting the regolith was the first scientific experiment in the new Einstein elevator at Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH). In order to be able to be used in the elevator, the laser system and a vacuum chamber in the elevator nacelle were attached to an experiment carrier. The laser system is supplied with power and controlled from the experiment carrier. The regolith samples are in a vacuum during the experiments – just as they would be on the moon. In flight, the laser melts a small amount of regolith, forming a ball and cooling it before landing in the test chamber.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ludger Overmeyer, LUH, describes the specialty of the large Hanover research device as follows: “The Einstein elevator is equipped with long-stator linear motors. This enables us to accelerate very precisely, precisely set a vertical trajectory, but also to brake safely. In this way, we can not only achieve up to 300 flight attempts per day, but also gravity of different strengths. ”In free fall, microgravity is achieved, ie weightlessness, while lunar gravity is slowed down. “This is so far unique and makes it possible for the first time to carry out statistical tests in different gravitational environments,” explains Prof. Dr.-Ing. Overmeyer.

Vision: Printing building materials on the moon

“The next goal is now to test the laser system on a moon mission,” says Stefan Linke, IRAS. “If this regolith can be used to melt on the moon, 3D-printed building material on the moon will come closer and with it the realization of the vision of a lunar colony.”


The ambitious and forward-looking research project is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation as part of the “Open – for the Extraordinary” funding initiative. The foundation supports unusual and daring projects for which no other funding can be found. The idea behind the project and the current progress is shown in the MOONRISE film .

About the Einstein elevator

The Einstein Elevator at the Hannover Institute of Technology (HITec) at Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH) is an actively controlled drop tower of the new generation. It enables experiments in weightlessness and other gravity conditions such as lunar or Mars gravity at a repetition rate of up to 300 times a day with a three-shift operation. The facility went into operation in autumn 2019 and has already successfully carried out the first research flights for the MOONRISE project and other research projects. The Institute for Transport and Automation Technology (ITA) works in close cooperation with the Laser Zentrum Hannover eV on laser-based additive manufacturing under space conditions. The operation of the worldwide unique facility is supervised by the ITA. The ITA was significantly involved in the development and construction of the Einstein elevator. More about the Einstein elevator at:

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