There has been a lot of media attention about 3D printing for all kinds of industries. One of the great benefits about 3D printing is its ability to allow remote locations to fabricate their own tools or supplies. One of the most remote locations and hostile locations is space. Imagine being so remote that your only link to supplies can only come from 1 of 3 government agencies…and only if a launch vehicle is ready. The International Space Station circles the Earth in low earth orbit, (LEO) only about 400 km from the surface at a velocity of 28,000 km/h. Getting supplies to the ISS costs roughly $5,000 – $10,000 per kilogram with current technology. We can thank “The Tyranny of the Rocket Equation” for this. What if we didn’t have to do this for every tool or device needed to maintain the station or maintain the ongoing science experiments?
This Sunday’s launch aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule on a resupply mission will carry a 3D printer made specifically for zero gravity. The printer was manufactured by Made In Space, a company that has partnered with NASA to research and investigate 3D printing technology in zero-g or micro-gravity. If it is a viable alternative for generating replacement parts, astronauts would no longer need to wait for a resupply vessel to deliver spares. They can just be printed. To make the cycle even more valuable is the ability to recycle any used or leftover materials.
It’s an interesting read…
“3D Printer Headed to Space Station” – NASA
“Launch of First Zero-Gravity 3D Printer to ISS” – Made In Space
“The Space Station Is Getting Its First 3D Printer” – Mashable
“NASA Plans to Launch 3D Printer Into Space Sunday” – Mashable
Updated (21 Sep 2014):
“Launch brings new technology that could change life in space” – CNN