A project to 3D-print bulky components in space rather than bring them up there has collected a $73.7 million contract from NASA to demonstrate the technique in space. N
A project to 3D-print bulky components in space rather than bring them up there has collected a $73.7 million contract from NASA to demonstrate the technique in space.
- Archinaut, a mission now several years in development from Made In Space, could launch as soon as 2022.
- The problem is this: If you want a spacecraft to have solar arrays 60 feet long, you need to bring 60 feet of structure for those arrays to attach to, they can’t just flap around like ribbons.
- But where do you store a 60-foot pole, or two 30-foot ones, or even 10 six-foot ones when you only have a few cubic feet of space to put them in?
- There’s no more compact way to keep the material than as a brick of solid matter.
- There are plenty of things too big to take into space in one piece, but which could be made of smaller ones if necessary.
- Made in Space already has contracts in place with NASA, and has demonstrated 3D printing of parts aboard the International Space Station.
- The demonstrator mission, Archinaut One, would launch aboard a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle no earlier than 2022.
- After achieving a stable orbit, begin extruding a pair of beams that will eventually extend out 32 feet.
- Once finished, these solar arrays would theoretically generate some five times the power that a spacecraft that size would normally pull in.
- Naturally in-space manufacturing is a big concern, but it’s a lot easier to make something there than make a quarter-million-mile delivery.
By: Abhinav Ranjan, Editorial Desk, DKODING Media