Friday, November 19, 2010

Orbiting 3-D Printers Could Print Out New Space Stations

By Julie Beck

International Space Station NASA
Now that we’ve begun 3D printing anything and everything here on Earth, it’s time to move to the final frontier: printing space stations in orbit. It was only a matter of time. Now new company Made in Space is seeking investors and beginning tests to make space printing a reality, according to
It just makes more logical and economical sense to print parts for spacecraft and space stations in space, says the company's founder. If parts do not need to withstand the G-forces of being launched, their mass can be reduced by 30 percent. NASA could just launch the gray goo known as feedstock into orbit, to be dealt with later. Manufacturing parts in space also means that anything that breaks wouldn’t have to be shuttled down to Earth for repairs. The broken part could be recycled back into feedstock, and the printer could just crank out a new one.
When we eventually make it to Mars, we could take the printers with us to create dwellings out of Mars dirt, or to print out robot components. Despite these big plans, Made in Space is still in its early stages. It’s already printed out some space-ready parts, but it needs to see how the printers will perform in zero gravity. If the printer passes that test, the next step could be a trial aboard the International Space Station.

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