Here at 3D Rapid Print, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.
In July 2019, Made In Space of Mountain View, California received a $73.7 million contract from America’s National Aeronautics And Space Administration (NASA) to demonstrate how their Archinaut One spacecraft could 3D print spacecraft parts while in low-Earth orbit. (Made in space describe their “Mission” as “We develop state-of-the-art space manufacturing technology to support exploration, national security, and sustainable space settlement;” they describe their “Vision” as “Pioneer sustainable space infrastructure to support our customers’ missions, promote national security and drive exploration objectives through advanced space manufacturing.”) Unfortunately, NASA does not expect the Archinaut to launch until at least 2022.
Once the Archinaut is in position, it will 3D print two beams that will reach 32ft (9.75m) out from each of its sides. As the beams being printed, they will simultaneously unfurl two arrays of solar panels that are attached to the beams; a robotic arm will subsequently secure the arrays to the beams. NASA claimed that the solar panel arrays would generate 5 times as much power as traditional solar panels would on a similar sized spacecraft, also proclaiming that the potential benefits of the 3D printing in space would include:
- Enabling remote construction of large structures in the vacuum of space, such as communications antennae or space telescopes.
- Enabling smaller satellites to deploy surface area power systems and reflectors that would otherwise be too small for them.
- Eliminating a spacecraft’s volume being constrained by the available space on a rocket.
- Avoiding the risks inherent to spacewalks by doing things astronauts would otherwise have to do.
Made In Space has been working on the Archinaut project since 2016 and it has still not yet left the ground. Nonetheless, in August 2017 they 3D printed some structural beams in a thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in California’s Silicon Valley. In November 2014, Made In Space became the first company to 3D print an object in zero gravity. In August 2017, they were awarded a Guinness World Record for “Longest 3D printed non-assembled piece” for 3D printing a beam that measured 37.7m (123ft 8.25in) in length.
3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.
Disclaimer: Featured image of “TDRS-E deployment from STS-43” is in the public domain in the United States because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted.”