First-Ever 3D Printing in a Space-like Environment Demonstrated
Under NASA contract, Made In Space additively manufactures extended structures, opening the door for more capable and cost-effective satellites
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif., August 10, 2017 -- Under its Tipping Point contract with NASA, Made In Space, Inc. (MIS) recently manufactured the first-ever extended 3D-printed objects in a space-like environment, a significant milestone on the path to manufacturing systems and satellites in space. In a thermal vacuum chamber (TVAC) at NASA Ames Research Center’s Engineering Evaluation Laboratory (EEL), MIS’s Extended Structure Additive Manufacturing Machine (ESAMM) successfully operated within the vacuum and temperature environment of space. In its facilities, MIS quickly built on this success, using ESAMM hardware to manufacture a beam structure measuring over 30 meters in length. The ability to manufacture complex, large-scale structures in space is a critical enabler of next-generation, space-optimized satellite design and deployment.
As part of its in-space manufacturing and assembly technology, Archinaut, ESAMM is used to manufacture space-optimized structures. Archinaut combines robotic assembly with ESAMM to produce bigger, more complex structures than exist in space today. Because this technology manufactures in space, it enables the optimization of structures and spacecraft for the space environment instead of the launch environment.
“These successful demonstrations mean that on-demand, adaptable manufacturing of complex structures in space has been significantly derisked,” said Andrew Rush, MIS President & CEO. “This expands the design space. We hope that mission planners can now more confidently design missions around in-space manufacturing and assembly, optimizing satellites for their operational environment, not just launch.”
Structures produced in the EEL TVAC facility were made from PEI/PC, a polymer alloy well-suited to space applications. As part of this NASA-backed effort, MIS manufactured a structural segment of a space-optimized boom out of PEI/PC on its Additive Manufacturing Facility aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Taken together, these tests demonstrate ESAMM’s high state of technological readiness. In the lab and on ISS, MIS is continuing to advance the state of the art with ongoing robotic assembly development and improvements to space-capable manufacturing technologies. “Satellites incorporating in-space manufacturing and assembly will inherently be more capable and provide more value to operators and users,” said Rush. “We’re proud to be making this vision a reality and grateful for NASA’s support.”
About Made In Space:
Made In Space, Inc. (MIS) is the industry leader for space manufacturing technologies, delivering next-generation capabilities in orbit to support exploration objectives and national security priorities. As the first commercial company to additively manufacture in space, MIS is advancing the commercial space economy through its expansive technology portfolio. With a focus on industrializing the space environment, MIS specializes in on-orbit manufacturing, space enabled materials development and exploration manufacturing technology. With offices in Florida, California, Alabama, and Ohio, MIS is empowering an elite workforce and domestic supplier base to realize the company vision of sustainably building off-Earth manufacturing capabilities to enable the future of space exploration. For more information about Made In Space, visit www.madeinspace.us.