Baylor alum’s ideas lead to NASA contract for building on the Moon
If all goes according to plan, humanity’s first construction on another world could come from the mind of a Baylor Bear.
Austin-based ICON, a 3D-printing construction company, was recently awarded a nearly $60 million NASA contract to research and develop space-based construction systems that support planned exploration of the Moon and beyond. The co-founder and chief technology officer at ICON? Baylor’s Young Alumnus of the Year for 2022, Alex Le Roux (BS ’15).
The idea is that ICON’s ability to use 3D-printing for construction — currently being used to build a neighborhood in Georgetown, military training barracks outside Austin, and homes for Austin’s homeless — could translate to building on the Moon and beyond, using local (lunar) resources as building materials.
“To change the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back again’ to ‘there to stay,’ we’re going to need robust, resilient, and broadly capable systems that can use the local resources of the Moon and other planetary bodies,” says Le Roux’s co-founder and ICON’s CEO, Jason Ballard. “We’re pleased that our research and engineering to-date has demonstrated that such systems are indeed possible, and we look forward to now making that possibility a reality.”
ICON’s beginnings go back to Le Roux’s time at Baylor. During his senior year, the mechanical engineering major designed and built a concrete 3D printer with the intention of breaking into the tiny house movement. He successfully printed America’s first livable 3D structure with this printer and established a company to build large-scale, affordable 3D printers for the construction industry, then shifted his focus from selling those printers to using them — co-founding ICON in 2017.
“I was the lone engineer in the business school,” Le Roux told Baylor Magazine last year. “I loved the adrenaline rush and uncertainty of entrepreneurship. With the combination of learning, I was pretty good at engineering — it seemed like a natural fit.”
In a very short time, Le Roux’s work looks like it’s headed from Waco to Austin to the Moon.
Sic ’em, Alex!