NASA funds project of 3D-printed spacecraft parts made, assemble in orbit

The project aims to 3D-print large spacecraft components in low-Earth orbit instead of flying them up into space. The mission would involve the launch of Archinaut One that will be deployed by a Rocket Lab Electron rocket down in New Zealand in or after 2022.

NASA funds project of 3D-printed spacecraft parts made, assemble in orbit
NASA funds project of 3D-printed spacecraft parts made, assemble in orbit

NASA funds project of 3D-printed spacecraft parts made, assemble in orbit

US space research agency NASA has awarded a $73.7 million contract to California-based Made In Space, Inc. to demonstrate the ability to manufacture and assemble spacecraft components in low-Earth orbit. The in-space robotic manufacturing and assembly technologies could be important for America’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The project aims to 3D-print large spacecraft components in low-Earth orbit instead of flying them up into space. The mission would involve the launch of Archinaut One that will be deployed by a Rocket Lab Electron rocket down in New Zealand in or after 2022. Once there, the spacecraft will 3D-print two 32-foot beams out from either side of its body, which then unfurls two massive solar panels, capable of generating almost five times more power than traditional solar panels on a spacecraft of the same size.

The technology was developed as a result of the agency’s partnership with Made in Space, an in-space manufacturing company based out of California. After years of development and testing in a NASA facility that imitates conditions in space, the company has now landed a $73.7 million contract from NASA to demonstrate the technology in actual space.

“In-space robotic manufacturing and assembly are unquestionable game-changers and fundamental capabilities for future space exploration,” said associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate Jim Reuter. “By taking the lead in the development of this transformative technology, the United States will maintain its leadership in space exploration as we push forward with astronauts to the Moon and then on to Mars.”