How and why the United States is developing a lunar economy


The United States is seriously thinking about developing an economy on the Moon. Representatives of major companies are thinking about technical solutions to return people to the Earth’s satellite

What’s the trend?

According to preliminary estimates , by 2040 the global space market will generate $1 trillion in profit. In addition to expanding the capabilities of satellite

communications in space, scientific research is being carried out, new medicines and technologies are being developed . This will help humanity better understand its place in the Universe, study the origin of life and the likelihood of the presence of alien creatures.

Development of the lunar economy

NASA plans to land humans on the Moon again as part of the Artemis program. However, not only the space agency is interested in flying to the Earth’s satellite. The lunar economy was taken up by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

DARPA is a key organization that supports successful new technologies for the benefit of the US Military. In particular, DARPA participated in the first launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 1 rocket. In 2023, the agency announced that it was starting research on LunA-10 to understand how to ensure the development of the lunar economy by 2035.

In December 2023, DARPA announced that it was collaborating with 14 different companies on the LunA-10 program, ranging from Northrop Grumman and SpaceX to Nokia. They are required to submit a report by June 2024. However, already in March, the first document on the research results appeared.

Its author is listed as Michael Nayak, director of LunA-10. He said: “Based on the technical work on LunA-10, I have identified six proposals. If we can achieve revolutionary improvements in technology using them, it is possible to accelerate the creation of a lunar economy directly.”

Promising areas of work

DARPA analysts revealed Nayak’s research in more detail. As a result, six specific areas of work emerged .

District heating and cooling

The lunar daily cycle is such that at every point on the surface of the Earth’s satellite, with the exception of the poles, day and night alternate every two weeks. Because of this, the surface cools significantly and then heats up greatly. In this regard, DARPA analysts propose to develop a centralized heating unit, like in skyscrapers.

Users will be able to connect to a thermal node on the Moon using compact devices and pay on a dollar-per-kilowatt basis. The scientific work emphasizes that such a model will be “an analogue of terrestrial energy systems and a fundamental factor in the lunar economy.”

Lunar exploration

It is important to study what resources actually exist on the Moon. Scientists are confident that water and oxygen can be found at its poles. To better explore the Moon, DARPA is looking for several satellites that could study the surface from an altitude of 15 km.

Silicon wafer production

It is planned to obtain information about the potential production of large (more than 40 cm) silicon wafers for supercomputers on the lunar surface. Hypothetically, the lunar environment has advantages in terms of temperature, pressure and gravity.

Use of microbes

Microorganisms perform many critical functions, from recycling waste to producing food and medicine. The goal is to combine lunar resources with biotechnology to create a closed-loop production cycle.


The Moon contains many valuable elements, including uranium and thorium. But their content in rocks is relatively small. To this end, DARPA is “seeking information on new mining methods and/or system designs that can dramatically increase throughput, enrichment, and reprocessing.”

Lunar GPS system

The lunar economy will be concentrated in a few resource-rich areas. In this regard, it is unlikely that in the near future there will be a need to create a positioning system covering the entire territory of the Earth’s satellite. However, DARPA is looking for “very low power solutions to generate, maintain, and exchange signals on the Moon independent of Earth.”

Plans are not yet funded

Despite the ambitious set of desired capabilities, it is important to note that for now, DARPA’s application is just a “request” for more information. It does not compel the federal government to act. However, it is clear that the agency, which has an annual budget of $4 billion, has a serious interest in lunar commercial activities. It’s now up to companies to provide innovative solutions to these technical problems by the summer of 2024.


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