Mines Staff

Colorado School of Mines, Lunar Outpost reach Level 2 of NASA’s Break the Ice Challenge

Ice Diggers will now build a prototype of their lunar excavation system for a 15-day durability demonstration test slated for September 2023

Colorado School of Mines and Lunar Outpost are teaming up to build a lunar excavation rover, the Outpost Digger System (ODS). This rover will be capable of excavating nearly 1 ton of concrete-hard lunar regolith per Earth day.  

The ODS is a configuration of Lunar Outpost’s next generation medium-class rover platform. Today NASA announced that Mines and Lunar Outpost have won an equal share of a $500,000 prize purse for their design as part of their submission to the NASA Break the Ice Challenge.

As one of 15 Phase 2 Level 1 winners, the Ice Diggers will now build a prototype of their excavation system for a 15-day durability demonstration test slated for September 2023. The demonstration test will take place at the Colorado Air and Space Port in Adams County, Colorado.

"The Ice Diggers combines Mines’ unparalleled capabilities in extractive technologies with Lunar Outpost’s state-of-the-art capabilities in lunar hardware design,” said Dr. George Sowers, team leader and professor in the Space Resources Program at Colorado School of Mines. “Our Outpost Digger system consists of two identical excavation vehicles that minimize mass and energy consumption while delivering the required 12 metric tons of regolith in 15 days.”

Aimed at the development of the water resources on the Moon, the NASA Break the Ice Challenge was designed to incentivize innovation around the excavation and delivery of icy regolith in extreme lunar conditions. Key to the challenge is maximizing the resources delivered while minimizing the energy used and the mass of equipment delivered to the Moon.

In 2021, Mines placed second in Phase 1 of the competition, winning $75,000 to continue the development of their idea. Since then, the Mines team partnered with Lunar Outpost to further the design.

“The Outpost Digger System builds upon our Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform (MAPP) rover technology scheduled to fly to the Moon in 2023 and 2024,” said Dr. Forrest Meyen, Chief Strategy Officer of Lunar Outpost. “Icy regolith excavation and delivery is just one of the many applications envisioned for our family of flight-ready rover platforms.”

For more information on Mines’ Space Resources Graduate Program, go to

For more information on Lunar Outpost, visit


Emilie Rusch, Director of Communications, Colorado School of Mines,, 303-273-3361

Lunar Outpost Marketing, 


Mines Staff

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Colorado School of Mines is a public R1 research university focused on applied science and engineering, producing the talent, knowledge and innovations to serve industry and benefit society – all to create a more prosperous future.