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Modular Aachen Planetary Exploration System

“It is exciting meeting people from all over the world who share our passion for space exploration!”


The transport of payloads into space poses immense economic challenges in addition to the technological tasks to be solved. With a payload shipping price of 177 000 €/kg to the lunar surface and projects that require payloads of tons in weight, weight reduction is therefore essential. However, raw material harvested on the Moon or Mars in the form of regoliths are suitable for producing habitat building materials and therefore reducing freight and costs during missions into space. Basalt fibres for fibre composites can be used for this purpose. But this requires a spinning system that is compatible with this environment.

Our team consists of students from the RWTH Aachen University from various disciplines with the common goal of establishing a system that could benefit future moon settlers. For IGLUNA 2020, we will collect everything the team learned from last year’s IGLUNA-project and take the modular planetary exploration system a step further by integrating the MoonFibre project into the existing concept of AMPEX.

The goal of AMPEX2020 is to build and operate a remotely controlled miniature spinning plant in an iBOSS cube. To do so, we have to miniaturize the existing spinning machine so that it fits into an iBLOCK. At the same time, the team will further develop the AMPEX technology and build a robot arm that can move the AMPEX cubes on the glacier. According to MoonFibre’s vision, there are hundreds of AMPEX spinning machines on the moon’s surface and spinning moon fibres. They will operate fully autonomously. Robots place the cubes, load them with lunar rock and remove the finished fibres. This process will be demonstrated step by step over several IGLUNA projects.

MoonFibre is a research project of two institutes from Aachen: Institute for Textile Technology (ITA) and Institute of Structural Mechanics and Lightweight Design (SLA). The aim of this research project is to produce fibres from lunar regolith. These fibres could be used, among other things, for the mechanical support of 3D-printed lunar habitats, thermal insulation or aero-/hydroponics.

iBLOCK is the building block of the iBOSS satellite. The iBOSS project is a cooperation between the RWTH Aachen and several other research institution which is led by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The aim of this project is to create a modular satellite system that enables on-orbit servicing and assembly.

AMPEX has been selected to take part in the “SCALE” mission together with SAMPLE and Celestial. The Phase 0 of the mission has been reviewed in December 2020 at the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) at ESA. The CDF hosts the technical teams supporting the preparation of the agency’s future space missions.

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