Archinaut: NASA Enlists Made In Space to Head Project for 3D Printing Large-Scale Structures in Space

Formnext Germany

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MIS_LOGO_MAIN_black3D printing is certainly responsible for bringing an enormous amount of cool new stuff to the world–and even allowing us to conceptualize, design, and make some unbelievable innovations from our own desktops.

The impacts of this technology are also significant in the medical industry, as 3D modeling assists with incredible procedures like face transplants and even heart transplants. Manufacturing is undergoing the predicted and massive transformation as automotive applications of 3D printing are predicted to generate a combined $1.1 billion by 2019, and in other areas like aeronautics, researchers are now able to print large aircraft frames and more.

What 3D printing is doing for missions in space is a story unto itself however. While most of us are aware of the first 3D printer that was sent into space last year to the ISS with the ensuing 3D printing of tools by some pretty thrilled astronauts, what many still don’t focus on is the absolute requirement for self-sustainability if we are to go farther, do more and stay longer away from the comfort of our home planet.

If you read The Martian or saw the recent movie (the read was better, if I can put in my bookwormy two cents), that certainly emphasized the point. Being able to take a 3D printer along and construct materials once in space is crucial for processes like the aforementioned making of necessary tools, as well as affording larger endeavors altogether like creating other vehicles for long-term travels, as well as construction for colonization.

3dp_Sfero_nasa_logo-300x249Thus, the name choice for a company like Made In Space becomes quite clear, with their ultimate goal being to see entire spacecraft manufactured ‘off planet Earth.’ MIS will also now, according to their recent blog, be leading the team for a new NASA project called Archinaut, as they work to actually allow spacecraft to both make and assemble structures which help in mission goals like providing antennas and base station capabilities.

As part of advancing tipping point technologies, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate chose MIS as the leader for Archinaut, working also with Northrop Grumman and Oceaneering Space Systems.

“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,” said Andrew Rush, President of Made In Space.

Tipping point technologies are recognized by NASA “if an investment in a demonstration of its capabilities would result in a significant advancement of the technology’s maturation, high likelihood of infusion into a commercial space application, and significant improvement in the ability to successfully bring the technology to market,” according to the MIS blog.

“The initial Archinaut Phase I program will perform a series of technology demonstrations in order to bring the final technical hurdles beyond the tipping point for commercial feasibility,” states the blog.

As the team overall develops the relevant technology and subsystems, Archinaut is meant to enable “the first additive manufacturing, aggregation, and assembly of large and complex systems in space without astronaut extravehicular activity.”

“In addition to transforming the current state-of-the-art for space manufacturing, the development of the Archinaut capability will be a great opportunity for Made In Space to collaborate with established space companies which possess complimentary resources and proven expertise,” said Mike Snyder, co-founder and chief engineer.

iss-3Duties will be divided as follows:

  • Made In Space will lead, using their already established 3D printing in space technology.
  • Northrop Grumman will provide expertise in electronic interfaces and external thermal control analysis.
  • Oceaneering Space Systems will design and build the manipulator arm.

“Archinaut is a major milestone on the roadmap for bringing large scale manufacturing to space. This announcement is a result of the technology development that has been underway since our company’s inception and sets the stage for what is to come in both the public and private sectors,” said Co-Founder and CTO Jason Dunn.

Founded just five years ago, MIS is a company we follow on a continual basis as they become more and more synonymous with 3D printing in space. They have already been previously–and substantially–connected with NASA for the 3D Printing in Zero-G Experiment, as well as the Additive Manufacturing Facility to be launched soon.

Let’s hear your thoughts on this partnership in the Made In Space / NASA forum thread on 3DPB.com.


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