For most of us, it’s incomprehensible how a project like getting to space even begins–from designing and making the actual ship, to manpower, to overall dynamics and intricate planning. And no doubt, those who put men on the moon were operating in a much different world. Today offers a host of new technologies though, and one of them, 3D printing, is probably the most talked about and impressive new ticket to the great beyond. Along with being the force behind numerous components, from thrusters to antennae and supports, that could not previously be produced, it’s also said to be what will eventually allow colonization–from the moon to Mars–and who knows where else.
Companies like Made In Space are currently in the business of making what previously seemed impossible–happen. And as the younger generations continue to look upward in wonder, as well as dreaming about being astronauts themselves, space continues to be favorite and incredibly enlightening area of study. Now, the NSS Enterprise will not only be the first 3D printed airframe in space, but it will also carry more than 100 passive and active student experiments into space and then back to Earth.
Thanks to a partnership between Enterprise In Space (EIS), an international project of the non-profit National Space Society, and Made In Space, Inc., this spacecraft will be constructed extensively with 3D printed components — and then launched into orbit.
Made In Space, which of course was responsible for making the Zero-G 3D printer, which went to the ISS, is used to establishing ‘firsts’ in space. Last we checked, they were busy heading up the Archinaut project for making large scale 3D printed structures in space. Now, they’ll be partnering also with EIS to construct this craft.
For the project, EIS sponsored the Enterprise In Space Orbiter Design Contest for the actual design of the spaceship, and they have already chosen the winning design–by video game artist Stanley Von Medvey. The concept will be brought to fruition in the shape of the eight-foot-long, 1,000-pound satellite by the following entities:
- Made in Space
- EIS & EIS aerospace partners SpaceWorks Enterprise Inc.
- Deep Space Industries
- Terminal Velocity Aerospace
- The Global Aerospace Corporation
Made In Space co-founder and chief engineer Michael Snyder has also joined the EIS Board of Advisors. He will lend his expertise to the engineering of the NSS Enterprise as well as overseeing the educational Enterprise Center for Excellence on Aerospace Additive Manufacturing based on the project.
Not only meant to be an incredibly interactive educational project, as the first 3D printed airframe bound for space, the NSS Enterprise will offer an appropriately global experience as well. Holding projects and experiments relevant to space from students of all ages from all over the world, the craft will actually be reporting back to the students in an unprecedented type of learning experience, ‘talking’ to the students using ‘Ali,’ a language which is a form of artificial intelligence, and a cloud based platform that was created by Value Spring Technology, Inc.
“Ali will be the voice and mind of the NSS Enterprise, communicating with her virtual crew just as the computer aboard the Star Trek ships did, in natural language, through the student teams’ own internet terminals,” said EIS Program Manager Alice Hoffman. “Through the EIS project, we hope to demonstrate that Ali can become a personal tutor and mentor to every student, allowing them to see the vision of a brighter future and providing them with the education to fully participate,” she said.
All around, this is a comprehensively challenging project, pushing the typical incredible boundaries that Made In Space is famous for. As EIS points out, the ‘fully integrated vehicle’ will be unique and groundbreaking–and especially for this type of innovative mission.
“Made In Space is excited to be a part of this great effort to engage with students from across the world through real experiments that will be flown in space on the NSS Enterprise spacecraft,” said Made In Space co-founder and chief engineer Michael Snyder.
The Enterprise In Space vehicle itself is an incredible technical challenge that will push the barriers of additive manufacturing and spacecraft design. With this in mind, EIS has already managed to raise $27.5 million in ‘in-kind’ donations for the project but will be relying partially also on public donations for the construction and launch of the orbiter. If you contribute, you can look forward to being one of the virtual crew members whose names will be sent into space on a chip and then returned to Earth to be displayed at a major museum.
Branding rights for the spacecraft and portions of the AI deployed on the NSS Enterprise will actually be given as rewards to those giving much larger donations, like corporations and foundations–as well as generous individuals.
“The EIS team is thrilled to be partnering with Made In Space,” said Shawn Case, Enterprise In Space founder and chairman of the Board of Advisors. “It’s a great fit, as we all work together to support and foster education. We share the same goal of enabling humanity’s future in space. As Carl Sagan once said, ‘Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works,’” he said.
Once engineering specifications have been finished, the large team will begin actually constructing the spacecraft. EIS says that they will also be hosting international challenges to begin choosing projects and experiments to be placed onboard. These will be contributed by students all the way from kindergarten to their senior year in high school. Anyone interested can following all of the steps included from beginning to end through EIS.
Not only will 3D printed components be integral to the construction of this craft, but undoubtedly education regarding the technology will be fascinating and valuable for students as well, as they are exposed to one superior example of today’s uses for this technology. Discuss this story in the NSS Enterprise forum thread on 3DPB.com.