Made In Space, a California-based startup, developed a 3D printer in cooperation with NASA and it will be sent to the International Space Station during the next commercial resupply mission in August.
The project is called "3D Print" and the Made In Space printer meets all of the requirements for use aboard the ISS, NASA officials announced on Thursday. The printer will launch to the orbiting lab in August when SpaceX conducts the next commercial resupply mission in August using its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket.
The printer was subjected to various inspections and tests, including its ability to withstand launching conditions as well as its compatibility with space station interfaces. When 3D Print arrives at the ISS, it will be installed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) and print out a set of 21 test parts and tools to be returned to Earth at a later date. Made In Space hopes to one day permanently install one of their 3D printers on the ISS.
But this first go-around will be a trial run. The astronauts will install the printer and have it print out the test parts and tools, which will aim to verify the additive-manufacturing process in microgravity as well as the demonstration of the usability of some of the printer's parts. If the experiments and tests prove successful, a 3D printer could be another feature the ISS boasts in the near future.
"Passing the final tests and shipping the hardware are significant milestones, but they ultimately lead to an even more meaningful one - the capability for anyone on Earth to have the option of printing objects on the ISS," said Made In Space CEO Aaron Kemmer in this Space.com article. "This is unprecedented access to space."
The company's customized 3D printer will be a part of the "3D Printing in Zero-G Experiment." Made In Space conducted various 3D printing technologies between 2011 and 2014 in zero-gravity to prepare for this eventual milestone. The company was awarded a Phase III Small Business Innovation and Research Contract for this NASA mission. The research will be taken to new heights now that NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama approved the 3D printer for launch.http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/15390/20140612/iss-will-receive-3d-printer-when-nasa-orders-next-resupply.htmhttp://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1115.html