Making Space Travel Safer and More Cost Effective

Space travel is the dream of many, but few actually get to achieve this goal. Today, however, space travel is not the only possibility for those looking to work with NASA. 3D Printing has come a long way impacting virtually every industry throughout the world but Made in Space is making 3D Printers for a new era far beyond earth.

Who Are Made in Space?

Every groundbreaking idea starts small and it was Jason Dunn’s dream of going into space that led to the idea of 3D Printers in space. Made in Space is a startup located in Silicon Valley that has made the most advanced 3D Printer on the market today. Recently, NASA has refocused their attention from manufacturing more space ships to longer independent stretches in space without the need for additional launches.

It has always been the hope of NASA to eventually have the capacity to allow humans to live on another planet and Made in Space provides a significant avenue for that possibility to happen. Jason Dunn’s dream of space exploration was reformatted into the 3D Printing technology that provides a means of manufacturing necessary equipment and materials in space without having to return to Earth to restock.

An Enormous Expense

A major setback, for those wishing to live beyond the borders of Earth, primarily comes down to the high expense of space travel. On average, it costs about £7,500 per kg to launch a ship into space. That is not only the ship itself, but equipment, supplies, food, and any possible necessities needed for the mission. 3D Printers onboard the ship make it possible to pack less necessities and allow the Astronauts, themselves to make specifically what they need, when they need it, without having to pack additional equipment which may not even be used.

For a ship to launch into space with the intention of going to a base on Mars or the Moon, the addition of extra equipment for “just in case” scenarios significantly add to its overall weight, and thus, expense. The cost of raw materials for printing, along with the 3D Printer, is remarkably lighter making space travel more cost effective and safer for all onboard.

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3D Printing is a quick and effective way of making lightweight components for space. Additionally, as products can be made on-site, superfluous weight is reduced.

Testing

In order to test 3D Printers for a weightless atmosphere, Made in Space worked with NASA to use the device onboard a parabiotic flight. As with most new forms of technology, trial and error was the key to achieving the final goal of a workable 3D printer. It took approximately 3 years to find the right configuration to achieve 3D Printing in a weightless environment. With the first launch, the format proved successful. Because of this initial successful launch, there is now an active 3D Printer onboard the international space station.

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A picture of Made in Space in a zero gravity environment.

What is Next?

Humans have become accustomed to the ability to utilise desktop 3D Printers and the results have been amazing. CNC Milling Machines, CNC Lathe Machines, and Desktop 3D Scanners have made life on earth so much easier. To date, 3D Printers in space have produced tools and necessities out of composites, plastics, metal, and so many other materials, but the future of space-based 3D Printing is set to go farther. Studies are now being processed to enable the machines to manufacture the same devices from Moon Dust and space based natural substances.

Possible Implications

Having a 3D Printer in space opens the possibilities for more inexpensive travel, but it has the potential to do so much more. NASA has been plagued with virtually unknown issues throughout its existence that has led to failed missions. When looking at most of these instances, the issue tends to come down to one seemingly small problem such as a small part breaking. With 3D Printer technology at the hands of every astronaut, possible disasters that have the potential to end a mission will be a problem left in the past. The ability to simply manufacture a part for the station, or parts for a ship, opens doors for more profitable and longer missions into space without fear of a failed mission or loss of life.

3D Printers are amazing machines, and thankfully, the technology is not only open to the commercial industry, but Desktop 3D Scanners and printers as well. Machines such as the Pruisa I3 MK3 put power to create in the hands of novice users as well as professionals. 3D Printed Models have become the norm in society today with more people turning to the industry for production of prototypes and specialty equipment. Earth is now fruitful with new printing technology, but we will soon see the day where 3D Printers will be a common piece of equipment on every mission to space and even quite possibly onboard a Mars or lunar base. The options are wide open for the expansion of the industry, so keep your eyes open for new possibilities.

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