Nasa has launched a competition to design and build a 3D-printed habitat that could be used on Mars or for other deep space exploration missions.

In partnership with the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, the agency is conducting a $2.25m competition, which is part of its Centennial Challenges programme.

The multi-phase challenge will accelerate the additive construction technology to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond, Nasa said.

Centennial Challenges programme manager Sam Ortega said: "The future possibilities for 3D printing are inspiring and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration.

"This challenge definitely raises the bar from what we are currently capable of, and we are excited to see what the maker community does with it."

"The future possibilities for 3D printing are inspiring and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration."

As part of the competition’s first stage, participants will develop architectural concepts that will incorporate 3D printing capabilities. This phase runs until 27 September.

Organisers will evaluate the top 30 submissions and the winners will be awarded $50,000 at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York, US.

Phase two will have two levels, of the structural member competition and the on-site habitat competition.

The first level of the competition will focus on fabrication technologies to produce structural components from indigenous materials and recyclables, while the other part will require competitors to produce full-scale habitats. Each level will carry a prize of $1.1m.

Using the selected concepts and products from the competition, Nasa plans to send habitat-manufacturing machines to distant destinations, to build shelters for the human explorers.

These capabilities could also help construct housing solutions in remote locations on Earth with limited access to conventional building materials.

Nasa is also seeking spacecraft designs that could be used for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and a robotic satellite servicing mission in low-Earth orbit.

Planned for launch in the early-2020s, ARM will capture a large boulder from a near-Earth asteroid surface using a robotic spacecraft and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts.

The Restore-L mission will include a spacecraft that will use robotic systems, to refuel a satellite in low-Earth orbit.