NASA plans to send a 3D printer into space by this year’s August. The U.S. space agency announced this fact last Thursday, but what does it mean for the International Space Station (ISS)? More safety and lower transportation costs, according to a press release by the Made in Space; the company that created the space 3D printer.
NASA has already announced they wanted to launch a 3D printer into space last year’s September. However, a lot of testing was required before the printer could actually be sent into space. Made in Space took the job and they tested their printer for more than 20,000 hours (!). Their initial goal was to send the printer into space by November, but since the printer has already passed NASA’s certifications, it can be launched by August.
In the press release, NASA’s 3D Print Project Manager Niki Werkheiser says: “NASA was able to provide key guidance on how to best comply with strenuous space certification, safety and operational requirements and Made In Space excelled at incorporating that insight into the design. As a result, the hardware passed testing with flying colors. Made In Space now has first-hand experience of the full ‘A-to-Z’ process for designing, building, and testing hardware for spaceflight.”
And what will be the 3D printer’s main job at the space station? The printer will produce spare parts, crew tools as well as mini satellites for research – called CubeSats, so says the press release. In addition, the 3D printer was designed to function in zero gravity. Because astronauts can print their necessary gear right away, they will be less dependent on resupply ships for materials, leading to lower transportation costs. Because they can print out items on-site and therefore avoid having to wait a relatively long time on a resupply ship, it also becomes safer to travel in space.
It is ISS’s aim to eventually start a permanent 3D printing station in space, which they will call the Additive Manufacturing Facility. With such a station they want to advance space travel and research.
Image credits: Made in Space/ NASA.