Will 3-D printing make in-space construction a reality?
Space could be the next frontier for the construction industry.
Made In Space, which bills itself as a “space manufacturing company,” and NanoRacks, which helps its commercial clients make use of the International Space Station, have partnered to launch a 3-D printer into space for use in building tiny satellites far above Earth.
The so-called Cubesats will be assembled in orbit from the “printed” parts and then deployed into space, according to Space.com.
The effort could result in “the first off-Earth assembly line,” according to Space.com.
“This is a fundamental shift for satellite production," Made in Space President Andrew Rush said in a statement. He said satellites constructed in space will be lighter and built quicker because they will not have to be designed to withstand a launch.
Plus, satellites and other objects printed and assembled in space can be larger than pre-built products launched from Earth because builders will not have to comply with size and weight restrictions in order to fit the components onto a space rocket.
Astronauts installed an experimental 3-D printer at the space station last fall, which NASA has used to test-print a number of parts for satellites.