In an ordinary building near Moffett Field, a company called Made In Space is making tools for space exploration and satellites. The company is also making its long-awaited first self-manufacturing satellite that is going to launch in the coming three years. The company would use 3D printers to build satellites in space. This strategy has several advantages. You can save a lot of volume by sending a dense 3D printer into space rather than a spacious constructed object. If you don’t want to survive the forces of launch, you can use weak designs with less mass.
Made In Space has done many tours on the international space station. The Cofounder and CEO of the company, Andrew Rush, states, “Around five years ago, manufacturing in space was nothing more than a dream. Now, we manufacture so much stuff in orbit that it seems like a walk in the park.”
“We have done so much manufacturing and printing. Therefore, it’s time to get assembly and get robotic operations,” says Jim Bridenstine, the Administrator of NASA. Currently, Made In Space is making a structure with robot arm loop wires on a 3D-printer reflector disk. It has star trek posters on it and the largest 3D-printed object. The name of the 3D printer is Archinaut One.
Archinaut One would transform the world of 3D printers and satellites. This technology would allow the researchers to manufacture big objects in orbit. The main thing that differentiates this technology from other airspace technologies is that it concentrates on the space environment rather than the launch environment. Consequently, this enables capable systems to be built at low costs.
It isn’t as if the scientists would make the entire satellite from bricks of polymer and wire. NASA has given Made In Space $73.7 million for Archinaut One. It will manufacture two ten-meter-long wings of solar array. Since it doesn’t contain the customary smaller panels, it would generate five times more energy than the traditional solar panels on the same aircraft.
There are many potential applications for Archinaut One. Internet-via-satellite solutions require bandwidth and power equals bandwidth. Bridenstine is quite proud that a small business rather than NASA did this work. He prefers NASA as a customer of the private space sector rather than owning and manufacturing all the technologies by itself. You can call Archinaut One as a prototype of the robotic construction of the Lunar Gateway.
Any person having a slight interest in space exploration would agree that Made In Space technologies are quite interesting and multifaceted. They usually recycle waste polymer on ISS. They also plan to make optical fiber in space that would be much better than the standard fibers.
The name of this project is the ZBLAN fiber production. Made In Space Chief Engineer and co-founder, Michael Snyder said, “ZBLAN is going to have many applications because it has a big wavelength window. You can even use the current fibers for transmitting infrared rays. In theory, if you compress all the crystallization in ZBLAN, the advantages of the fiber are way more than the silica fiber.”
However, the most interesting approach of the company is to convert Lunar into 3D-printing feedstock and making extremely strong, airtight structures. Around 70% of moon dust can be mixed with 30% polymer and then heated into 3D feedstock. Made In Space’s ambitious plan to make spacecraft from asteroids is known as “Project RAMA.”
All this looks more like building castles in the air. However, the track record of the company demands that people should take them seriously. The co-founders of the company met at Singularity University. They talked to NASA, which gave them a start by giving them a dusty basement office. However, the founders worked hard and made the company into what it is today.
All the projects of Made In Space look promising. NASA also tested its Mars Helicopter before the 2020 mission around three months ago. Let us hope that Made In Space and NASA revolutionize the aerospace technology.
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