Made In Space announced plans Oct. 21 to send a plastic recycling facility to the International Space Station on a Northrop Grumman commercial cargo resupply flight scheduled for early November.
For nine years, Made In Space executives and engineers have shared their vision for a future when satellites, solar arrays and large antennas are manufactured in orbit. During an Aug. 26 tour, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine clearly endorsed that vision.
NASA awarded a $73.7 million contract to Made In Space to additively manufacture beams on the Archinaut One satellite scheduled to launch in 2022.
The Swedish engineering firm Sandvik is looking for space applications for the 3D-printed diamond composite it unveiled at a recent additive manufacturing conference.
Made In Space proposes equipping small satellites with technology to manufacture in orbit a 20-meter optical boom interferometer with a modular internal optics bench the firm developed with Lowell Observatory.
Space system engineers, who once saw additive manufacturing as a way to trim the size and weight of conventional components, are beginning to see its true potential.
With four more of its satellites launched between July 22 and Sept. 25, Space Systems Loral now has more than 1,000 additively manufactured parts in orbit on 15 spacecraft.
Lockheed Martin’s Additive Design and Manufacturing Center in Sunnyvale, California, where the company produces military, commercial and civil space technology, attained a comprehensive safety certification.
Tethers Unlimited, one of three companies NASA selected Dec. 7 to build a prototype space-based 3-D printer called FabLab has grown dramatically in recent years due to interest among government and commercial customers in this type of work.
Relativity Space, a startup based in Los Angeles that only recently emerged from stealth mode, plans to use 3D printing to produce entire launch vehicles, an approach it claims can be more cost effective than traditional manufacturing techniques.
The aerospace industry’s view of additive manufacturing has changed dramatically since Stephane Abed founded Poly-Shape in 2007.
While additive manufacturing is changing the way spacecraft are built, more innovation will come from combining advanced manufacturing tools with new materials and design strategies.
By combining additive manufacturing with advanced processing power, companies now can print the optimal design for many spacecraft parts. However, more complex designs may carry hidden costs.
“Three to four years ago, none of my peers believed we would see additive manufacturing of safety-critical parts,” the FAA’s chief scientific and technical adviser for fatigue and damage tolerance said Oct. 19 at the Additive Aerospace conference in Los Angeles.
Lockheed says the technology has cut down on production time by two-thirds, while Aerojet is already testing a 3-D printed thrust chamber.