ESA calling for applicants to support lunar resource development

Stephen Kuper

The European Space Agency (ESA) is calling for applications for the Metalysis-ESA Grand Challenge worth €500,000 ($795,000) to support innovation to enhance the human settlement of space.

As ESA and other agencies prepare to send humans back to the moon – this time to stay – technologies that make use of materials available in space (in-situ resource utilisation) are seen as key to sustainability, and a stepping stone in humankind's adventure to Mars and farther into the solar system.

Key sectors include metallurgy, chemical processing, mining, as well as oil and gas industry. In the longer term, resources in space may even be used on Earth.

ESA is encouraging European industry, and Australian companies with European-based subsidiaries, to invest in the development of optimised technologies and systems that support future space exploration, the added benefit being that these ideas can also address sustainability and scarcity of resources on Earth.

The ESA Grand Challenge is part of the ESA Space 4.0 commitment to competitions that support entrepreneurs, innovation-led start-ups and new ventures. 



Metalysis in South Yorkshire, UK, has spent more than a decade developing and scaling up its electro-chemical technology; a process that converts refined oxides and ores directly into valuable metal alloy powders used in 3D printing for aerospace, automotive and high-value manufacturing.

ESA invites competitors to devise process-monitoring systems that will work with the Metalysis electro-chemical cells in space. Entries should be based on the electro-chemical technology of Metalysis and support sustainable operations and outer planetary exploration from long-term space settlements. 

In order to win the Grand Challenge first prize or one of the midterm prizes sponsored by Metalysis, the competing teams are requested to provide the evaluation panel with two key deliverables:

  • Phase 1: A project report detailing the process to be implemented by the participants in order to develop the final breadboard and its potential functioning; and
  • Phase 2: The breadboard developed according to the requirements set forth in the terms and conditions and final project report based on the same structure as the one required for the deliverable of Phase 1 including the user manual. 

The Breadboard must be compliant with all the applicable requirements described herein and that it shall be immediately operational and applicable to Metalysis Generation 1 electro-chemical cells (grams scale). 

More information, including terms and conditions or to submit your application, is available here.

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