Space is the harshest of all environments, offering few materials and limitations on power usage. While these intense factors still serve as major hurdles, 3D printing is helping mitigate them. In terms of power solutions, Made In Space is developing a method for solar array printing on the field in outer space. Their Archinaut program could have major implications for how satellites build and repair their power sources while in outer orbit.
Made in Space designed the Archinaut Power Kit for small satellites of about 330-lb. to 660-lb. (150 to 300 kilograms). As a result, these smaller vessels could potentially take on the duties of much larger satelites and stay in orbit for way longer. The kit launches into space on-board the craft and use on-board raw materials to make the solar array with the aid of astronauts on Earth using robotic manipulators.
“Deploying these power-intensive payloads on small satellites is game-changing, because these platforms cost an order of magnitude less to build and launch and can be fielded much more rapidly than 1,000-kilogram-plus satellites,” according to Made In Space CEO Andrew Rush.
The Archinaut Program
The current process involves packing in the array and assembling it in space. Thanks to the APK, they can avoid the need for meticulous pre-planning and build far larger solar power systems. Made In Space are looking forward to testing the plan and have already proposed trials to major aerospace agencies. They are optimistic about trials very soon.
“If that’s picked up, then you’ll see demonstrations of this in three to 3.5 years,” Rush told Space.com.
Made In Space have already shown off their machine’s zero gravity printing capabilities previously. Originally, they tested out the archinaut device in a vacuum chamber, printing out multiple polymer-alloy objects, the largest of which was a 33.5-inch-long. The company believes that Archinaut will be vital to increasing the abilities of smaller satellites. It can aid in better efficiency for aerospace agencies because these satellites are much easier to launch and maintain.
Featured image courtesy of Made In Space.