On Friday, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) announced a new program that aims to advance “Tipping Point” technologies.
“Tipping Point” technologies are those that have the potential to significantly advance a technology’s maturation and commercial application.NASA believe these will bring a new era of space exploration and commercial endeavors. It involves engaging in a series of public-private partnerships. Currently, there are 22 partnerships with different US companies in total.
Made in Space is one which has a focus on 3D printing. Together with NASA, the company already sent a working 3D printer into space. In 2014, they built and successfully tested the world’s first zero-gravity 3D printing experiment (All3DP reported).
Another Made in Space project caused excitement earlier this year as they were able to demonstrate that they are capable of 3D printing in vacuum.
Archinaut: The First Hardware Store in Space
For the new “Archinaut” project, Made in Space will work with Northrop Grumman and Oceaneering Space Systems to create the first system for 3D printing and assembling large structures in space, without direct, manual intervention on the part of an astronaut.
The project connects three companies under one roof. Made in Space will take the lead, using their already established Zero-G 3D printing technology. Oceaneering Space Systems will create and produce a robotic arm. Northrop Grumman will deliver electronic interfaces and thermal control analysis.
The goal is to create a robotized 3D printing factory that‘s capable of creating any piece of machinery which is needed aboard a spacecraft. So, the printer could be sent into space, build structures without having astronauts to oversee them.
With the “Archinaut”, they hope to be able to 3D print larger, complex structures. Andrew Rush, President of the Company, said of the news, “Archinaut is being designed from the ground up to be a truly cross-cutting technology, providing entirely new space capabilities for NASA and other government missions as well as both pre-existing commercial satellite manufacturers and emerging commercial space platforms.”
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