The ISMA team's work covers three main areas. The first is manufacturing via 3D printers, which can use metal, and later regolith (Moon dust), or recycle manmade objects already in space as source material to print new parts. Examples include radiation shielding, tooling, equipment, rovers and habitats. By the end of this decade, printers could be deployed on the Moon to make structures for a rover or lunar habitat.
The second area is in-space assembly, which can be used to create very large structures like antennas. This requires a high level of robotic operation, which is the third area. Control of robotic operations with virtual reality and visual serving for motion control is under development at Airbus robotic labs in Toulouse, Stevenage and Bremen to enable remote monitoring and control of future in-orbit operations.
Meanwhile the ISMA team is developing its own modular robotic arm and tools with the high level of accuracy required for such operations. The aim is to test this by placing a robotic facility on the ISS's Airbus-built Bartolomeo payload hosting platform by the mid-2020s, forming a “digital factory” in space.