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Textile origami for space habitats

Case Studies | April 1, 2019 | By:

The MoonMars prototype entrance tunnel was deployed and tested to extreme conditions during the EuroMoonMars2018 simulation at ESA–ESTEC. The origami structure was designed as a gateway and sub-system between the exo-habitat, airlock system and exo-laboratory. Photos: Samira Boon.

So, you move to Mars—now where are you going to live? As a matter of fact, there is innovative work being done on that subject.

A design team is working on the MoonMars project—architecture plans for smart human habitats and research stations on other planets. They are experimenting with origami and high-performance textiles to create habitats that are compact enough to transport and easy to deploy in extraterrestrial environments.

A collaboration between the International Lunar Exploration Working Group, ESA-ESTEC, research institutions and textile architect studio Samira Boon, the habitats are made of complex forms sculpted by incorporating origami structure into digital weaving processes. The forms are lightweight, can be unfolded into different shapes and are functional in a variety of circumstances. They can be deployed easily and reused in different configurations.

High-performance textiles and origami provide unique and protective architectural advantages in unfriendly environments. The angled facets of origami structures mean that incoming micrometeorites are less likely to hit surfaces at 90 degrees, dissipating the energy of potential impacts and the risks of penetration. Solar panels embedded in shape-shifting textiles can follow the sun to gather more energy through the day. Transparent and opaque facets can change direction to alter internal lighting and climate conditions.

The MoonMars team has built a prototype entrance tunnel and tested it to extreme conditions. Another round of trials is scheduled during 2019. The IGLUNA project, led by the Swiss Space Center, will include tests of an origami habitat in the glacier above Zermatt in Switzerland, and the MoonMars team will participate in a campaign inside a lava-tube cave system in Iceland.

The next step is creating a self-deployable origami habitat. For more information, visit

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