NASA awarded Kent’s Blue Origin a $35 million Tipping Point partnership on Tuesday, July 25, 2023 to continue advancing its innovative Blue Alchemist breakthrough revealed earlier this year.
Blue Alchemist is a proposed end-to-end, scalable, autonomous, and commercial solution that produces solar cells from lunar regolith, which is the dust and crushed rock abundant on the surface of the Moon.
Based on a process called molten regolith electrolysis, the breakthrough would bootstrap unlimited electricity and power transmission cables anywhere on the surface of the Moon.
Blue Origin says this process also produces oxygen as a useful byproduct for propulsion and life support.
According to NASA, a technology like Blue Alchemist is considered at a Tipping Point if the agency’s investment can help grow the innovation into a viable commercial solution. Today’s investment will result in a demonstration of autonomous operation in a simulated lunar environment by 2026.
“Harnessing the vast resources in space to benefit Earth is part of our mission, and we’re inspired and humbled to receive this investment from NASA to advance our innovation,” said Pat Remias, vice president, Capabilities Directorate of Space Systems Development. “First we return humans to the Moon, then we start to ‘live off the land.’”