DARPA to launch DoD’s first space manufacturing research program

WASHINGTON – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in a new program, will explore options for conducting bioproduction in space, using biological systems such as microbes to build materials for use in orbital operations.

The project, led by DARPA’s Biological Technology Office, is called B-SURE, short for Bioproduction, Survival, Utility and Reliability Beyond Earth.

“The B-SURE program is a fundamental study that will explore the adaptation of microbes to space conditions,” project leader Anne Cheever said in a press release. “The hope is that eventually this technology will allow the production in space of molecules relevant for space flight. “

Bioproduction is an emerging sector of the biotechnology industry focused on manufacturing products using living systems such as microorganisms, animal cells or plant cells.

DARPA believes this capability will be important for future military operations in space. “There is a critical need for DoD for the continued development and expansion of orbital manufacturing to enable and ensure supply chain resiliency, sustained technological superiority, and asset safety and repair for operations. current and future, ”DARPA said in a large agency announcement.

The announcement published on November 22 calls for proposals by January 25.

“B-SURE will conduct research to establish the feasibility of bioproduction in space,” the BAA said. One of the objectives of the program is to develop business models to determine the utility of biofabrication as a viable approach to manufacturing in space.

The DoD could potentially use biofabrication techniques to produce fuels or other materials in space using fermentation equipment, raw materials, and microbes that each convert the raw material into a molecule, a material. or a different useful product. “This is the ultimate goal of space bioproduction; bring the germs and equipment you need to make a wide range of raw materials or products that become critical during the mission, ”said DARPA.

“The DoD currently has no space manufacturing capability. All the resources or equipment needed for a given mission are made on Earth and shipped to space, ”Cheever said. “The B-SURE program is an important first step in answering fundamental questions of bioproduction in order to develop this capacity. “