Imagine a spacecraft that could build itself by scavenging materials from space junk or asteroids.
The “SpiderFab” project from Tethers Unlimited Inc. just received $100,000 from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts project to invest in designing and realizing a self-constrution device that could realize just that using the 3D printing technology. The practical planning and additional funding could lead to the launch of a 3D printing test mission within several years.
The aim of this project is to cut space mission costs and boost the capabilities by making much lighter and larger structures in space. Robert Hoyt, CEO and chief scientist of Tethers Unlimited Inc, said in an interview with InnovationNewsDaily that using 3D printers to build spacecraft parts in orbit would offer an easier way to construct huge space antennas or space telescope components 10 or 20 times larger than today’s counterparts without having to fold them up and squeeze them inside a rocket . The missions could simply launch with the 3D printers and raw materials. Structures send into space nowadays have to be made out of heavier components that can not only stand up to Earth’s gravity, but can also survive the shaking and acceleration of rocket launchers.
“We’d like someday to be able to have a spacecraft create itself entirely from scratch, but realistically that’s quite a ways out. That’s still science fiction.” Said Hoyt.
We are very curious how this project will fold out. If you’re interested in reading the full interview you can visit Space.com