Blue Origin manufactured this working solar cell prototype to turn lunar dust and crushed rock into solar energy on the Moon. COURTESY PHOTO, Blue Origin

Blue Origin manufactured this working solar cell prototype to turn lunar dust and crushed rock into solar energy on the Moon. COURTESY PHOTO, Blue Origin

NASA awards $35M contract to Blue Origin in Kent for solar power on the Moon

Company plans to turn Moon dust, crushed rock into solar-power systems

NASA awarded Kent-based Blue Origin a $35 million partnership to turn the dust and crushed rock on the Moon surface into solar-power systems.

The breakthrough could lead to autonomous manufacture of unlimited amounts of solar power, power transmission cables and oxygen anywhere on the surface of the Moon, according to a Blue Origin email. NASA awarded the partnership Tuesday, July 25 to continue advancing what the company calls Blue Alchemist.

“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,” according to Blue Origin. “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. 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. The investment by NASA 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, Blue Origin vice president, Capabilities Directorate of Space Systems Development. “First we return humans to the Moon, then we start to ‘live off the land.’”

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos opened Blue Origin in Kent in 2000 and expanded its headquarters in 2020 to a 236,000-square-foot blue-colored facility along 76th Avenue South between South 212th and South 228th streets.

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