NASA Awards Made In Space New Contract for Vulcan Hybrid 3D Printer, Successfully Launches First Deep Space-Bound CubeSats
Now Made In Space has won a new NASA contract to continue the development of its Vulcan hybrid manufacturing system. The system can 3D print with a wide variety of materials, including metal, unlike the 3D printers currently aboard the ISS, which can only print with polymers. The new NASA contract is a Phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award; Made In Space recently completed Phase 1 of the contract, which it received last year.
“The Vulcan hybrid manufacturing system allows for flexible augmentation and creation of metallic components on demand with high precision,” said Mike Snyder, Made In Space Chief Engineer and Principal Investigator. “Vulcan is an efficient, safe capability that utilizes the minimum amount of resources during manufacturing processes.”
“Vulcan can be important to logistical reduction necessary for long-term exploration,” Snyder said. “The hybrid manufacturing system is a major step forward for efficient space operations, providing the ability to build essential components and assemblies in the space environment, where flying spare parts from Earth is otherwise not viable.”
Vulcan will be able to 3D print with more than 30 materials, including titanium, stainless steel, aluminum and a wide variety of plastic composites. The hybrid machine will not only 3D print but will use subtractive techniques such as CNC to machine the 3D printed parts down to their final specifications.
It’s not all 3D printing with Made In Space: the company recently launched a machine to the ISS that creates a high-value optical fiber called ZBLAN, which is difficult to make on Earth as gravity creates tiny defects in the material. The goal of the machine is to determine whether ZBLAN can be manufactured in zero gravity and whether it would be lucrative enough to manufacture it on a large scale. If so, Made In Space plans to scale up production and bring ZBLAN back to Earth for sale in large quantities.
In other space news, many, many small CubeSat satellites have been sent into space over the past few years, and several of them have been 3D printed. NASA sent the first two CubeSats into deep space, and has received radio signals including that all is well and working so far. Mars Cube One, or MarCO, is a pair of briefcase-sized satellites that launched a few days ago along with NASA’s InSight Mars lander. InSight will probe the deep interior of Mars for the first time, and the CubeSats will follow along and test out miniature spacecraft data along the way.Both of the CubeSats were programmed to unfold their solar panels soon after launch, and then had the opportunity to radio back and confirm that all was well.
“Both MarCO-A and B say ‘Polo!’ It’s a sign that the little sats are alive and well,” said Andy Klesh, Chief Engineer for the MarCO mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which built the twin spacecraft.
Over the next couple of weeks, NASA will assess how well the CubeSats are performing, and if they survive the radiation of space, they will fly over Mars during InSight’s entry, descent and landing in November. Several new experimental systems are being tested with the satellites, including their radios, folding high-gain antennas, attitude control and propulsion systems.
“We’re nervous but excited,” said Joel Krajewski of JPL, MarCO’s project manager. “A lot of work went into designing and testing these components so that they could survive the trip to Mars and relay data during InSight’s landing. But our broader goal is to learn more about how to adapt CubeSat technologies for future deep-space missions.”
Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[Sources: Space.com, NASA]
You May Also Like
Daimler Buses Relies on DyeMansion for Color & Texture Quality in 3D Printed Spare Parts
While it took decades for the rest of the world to catch up, a handful of aerospace organizations, automotive industry leaders, and other innovators have continued to enjoy the inside...
DyeMansion Completes Beta Testing of VaporFuse Surfacing Technology for 3D Printed Parts
3D printing offers a world of infinite potential for innovation, as well as combinations of materials and finishing processes. DyeMansion is just adding to all that goodness now with VaporFuse...
Why Automated Post Processing Makes Manufacturing With 3D Printers Possible
In Material Extrusion (FDM), we can now use inexpensive machines to make dimensionally accurate & tough parts in various materials at low cost. These parts can fulfill many industrial and...
3D Printing News Briefs: May 26, 2019
This year’s RAPID + TCT ended late last week at the Cobo Center in Detroit, so we’re again starting off today’s 3D Printing News Briefs with more news from the...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.