Specially Designed ‘Space’ Printer Is a Game Changer
Transporting anything into space is expensive, just ask NASA. SpaceX, the Elon Musk space exploration company is working on making space travel cheaper, but they can only do so much. The sheer complexities involved and distances between Earth and space means every eventuality must be covered before the launch date. This can mean including a large number of tools, parts and other items of kit for that just-in-case moment. If repairs need to be carried out in space, the astronauts can’t just order a part on the fly.
NASA in partnership with Made In Space (MIS) is looking to overcome this issue using 3D printing. Imagine having the ability to print almost any part right on site; it could lead to great savings in time and money. The MIS team has developed a 3D printer (that uses ABS plastics) which they believe will work in space. And now the 3D printer is set for launch. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will carry the printer to the International Space Station (ISS), as part of SpaceX’s resupply contract with NASA.
The planned launch date for the SpaceX CRS-4 mission was originally set for this month, but has recently been pushed back to September 12th 2014. This will be the final test for the MIS 3D printer before NASA look to install a printer aboard the ISS on a more permanent basis. The test printer will be installed in the space station’s Microgravity Science Glovebox and has the capacity to build an estimated 30 percent of the spare parts on the station. However, it will only be required to print 21 sets of parts and tools this time around. These test parts will eventually be sent back to Earth for analysis.
The success of this mission could mark a new beginning for humans in space, many experts are very excited at the prospect.” The ability to manufacture on demand in space is going to be a paradigm shift for the way development, research and exploration happen in space,” said Michael Snyder, lead engineer and director of R&D for Made In Space. Check back with us next month to see how the mission went!