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We hear a lot of talk these days from global aerospace players about how 3D printing and robotics will further space travel, assist in further exploration of the Moon, colonize Mars, and employ futuristic plans that sound like they will allow many of us to live out fantasies not unlike those we’ve enjoyed during sci-fi movies (just leave out the apocalyptic darkness and terrifying space monsters please).

Now, Made in Space is continuing to live up to their name in regards to technical functionality in space, having just reached another achievement with Archinaut, part of an ongoing collaboration with NASA to further self-sustainability in space through construction of satellites and even entire spacecraft while away from Earth. In connection with their NASA Tipping Point contract, they have further proven AM and robotics capabilities in testing, in cooperation with the Archinaut Technology Development Project (ATDP), funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

The system was evaluated in thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing last fall in Redondo Beach, California at Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facility, during simulation of thermal and pressure environment of a satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This is just one more critical step toward making the Archinaut system ready for manufacturing parts in space, using dynamic programs like the PowerKit system, able to deploy a 2kW power system on a 150 kg ESPA-class satellite—exhibiting power five times that of current systems. Other deployment systems include an antenna that can perform major duties like exploring space, along with managing telecommunications and remote sensing.

“This technology will contribute to a more sophisticated low earth economy and lay the groundwork for more advanced commercial utilization of space,” said Andrew Rush, President & CEO of Made in Space.

MIS has even set a record with their extended additive manufacturing technology (ESAMM), capable of making structures longer than even the machine itself, with a Guinness World Record set at 37.7 meters long. In testing, MIS was also able to demonstration successful operation of ESAMM in a thermal vacuum chamber.

Led by Made in Space, other partners such as Northrop Grumman are providing integral development to the project also, mainly in systems integration. Oceaneering Space Systems was responsible for the robotic arm which will be so integral to the creation of sizeable structures built in space, along performing necessary upgrades. The robotics system can also be made responsible for doing repairs, along with small sat integration when payload retrievals and installations are necessary in space. During testing, the MIS team was able to show off the functionality of features like the following:

  • Autonomous reversible connection
  • Joining techniques of 3D printed parts
  • Nodes and trusses for robotic arm
  • End effector for assembly operations

“We are very proud of our team for achieving this critical proof point that ultimately lines us up for operational missions with customers in both government and commercial sectors,” Rush said. “We look forward to the next steps of preparing Archinaut-enabled missions for flight.”

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source /Images: Made in Space press release]

Made in Space delivered the first 3D printer to the International Space Station.

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