Satellite Manufacturing Machine
During its parabolic flight mission, Made In Space tested a prototype Satellite Manufacturing Machine (SMM). The SMM is a multi-material 3D printer and robotic assembly system. It creates useful electronic devices by additively manufacturing structure and circuit board substrates, robotically placing electronic components (in this case a solar cell, integrated circuits, and a transmitter), and laying down electrically conductive traces. For this demo, SMM was programmed to produce a picosatellite replicating the functionality of the world’s first satellite, Sputnik. Unlike Sputnik, this robotically manufactured satellite transmitted “Go Bucks” in honor of Chief Engineer Michael Snyder’s alma mater, the Ohio State University. SMM leverages existing government and Made In Space investments in the development of space-capable manufacturing. SMM was built using flight back up hardware from the first successful mission to manufacture in space, the 3D Printing In Zero-G Technology Demonstration mission.
The addition of electronics printing to the on orbit manufacturing technology that is currently available enables entirely new ways for humans to explore space. For crewed missions, this technology enables multi-material manufacture of electronic tools and products. This means in-space repair or replacement of not just handtools, mounts and the like, but also sensors, PCB boards, and other circuits. In the digital age, this increased level of adaptability is essential for deep space missions and colonizing LEO and beyond.