NASA invests $73m to bring 3D printing to space

16 Juillet, 2019, 12:23 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • The Made In Space team working on Archinaut

Space-based manufacturing company, Made in Space has been awarded a 73.7 million United States dollars contract from NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) to demonstrate the abilities of its Archinaut platform for the autonomous robotic manufacture and assembly of components in low-Earth orbit. The spacecraft will be "positioned in low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft will 3D-print two beams that extend 32 feet (10 meters) out from each side of the spacecraft".

The contract marks the second phase of the NASA-funded Archinaut technology development programme and follows a successful ground-based testing campaign of Archinaut's core additive manufacturing (AM) and robotic technologies, qualifying the platform for spaceflight.

Space exploration missions and rocket launches may be exciting but they're also terribly expensive. NASA says this technology could be important for a possible manned mission to Mars.

The US space agency will launch experimental spacecraft Archinaut One from Rocket Lab's Mahia Peninsula base. Once fully extended, it will unfurl two solar panels that will supply the spacecraft with five times more power than its normal panels.

"In-space robotic manufacturing and assembly are unquestionable game-changers", said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of Nasa's Space Technology Mission Directorate.

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Archinaut One is scheduled to fly aboard a Rocket Lab-made Electron rocket from New Zealand by 2022 and expected to demonstrate a 3D printing process upon reaching orbit.

Made In Space began working on Archinaut as a ground demonstration in 2016 and, just a year later, successfully 3D printed structural beams in a unique NASA facility that mimics the conditions of space. The test validated the technology proving its ability to withstand the temperature, pressure and other rigours of space.

The Archinaut team includes Made In Space, Northrop Grumman of Falls Church, Virginia, Ames, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The above video is a demonstration video that has been released onto the NASA video YouTube channel, check it out to see what we have planned for space in 2022.

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