NASA have announced plans to fund a project from Made in Space regarding asteroid 3D printing. Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata (RAMA) is receiving $100,000 for the first phase of its feasibility studies.
The project’s purpose is to try and transform asteroids into enormous autonomous mechanical spacecrafts. While the RAMA project is in its early days, its ambitions are very high. Astronauts want to employ “simple” robotic processes to give asteroids the capabilities of GNC, Propulsion and Avionics.
“Today, we have the ability to bring resources from Earth,” Said Jason Dunn, Made In Space co-founder and chief technology officer. “But when we get to a tipping point where we need the resources in space, then the question becomes, ‘Where do they come from and how do we get them, and how do we deliver them to the location that we need?’ This is a way to do it,” he said.
The RAMA Project
Project RAMA utilizes a seed craft, which lands on an asteroid and begins the conversion process. The seed craft would gather up and convert materials from the asteroid in an effort to build propulsion, navigation, energy-storage and other key systems onsite with the aid of 3D printing and other technologies. Even though they haven’t yet visualised what it would look like, an artist has provided a rendering, as seen above.
In effect, the RAMA project would decrease the amount of sub-systems at launch, instead applying major processes using the in-situation resources. It would also decrease materials cost in the long run and allow for lighter space travel, thus also diminishing fuel costs.
This project is an extension of already existing concepts that came about in recent years. Various terraforming technologies are also being applied elsewhere, although in different ways. Very recently, Foster + Partners applied the idea to housing and colonisation in space. If this many big organisations are edging towards it, it may be time to consider that it’s a close reality. Regardless, these enterprising companies are leading the way to a new renaissance in space travel.
Featured image courtesy of NASA.