NASA has been working with Made in Space to build a 3D printer that will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) in June next year.
To help us understand the obstacles that have to be overcome for a 3D printer to work in zero gravity NASA have released a video. Astronaut Timothy “TJ” Cramer explains how 3D printers will give them “Star Trek replication right there on the spot.”
“The goal of 3D printing is to take this capability to microgravity for use on the International Space Station. In space, whatever astronauts have available on orbit is what they have to use – but just like on Earth, parts break or get lost. When that happens, there’s a wait for replacement parts, or the need to have multiple spares that have to be launched. The ability to conduct 3-D printing in space could change all of that.”
Before it’s sent to the ISS the 3D printer has to prove it is capable of surviving the launch and operating in zero gravity. Previous zero-gravity tests were successful and it has just also passed rigorous flight certification tests. The machine went through a series of launch simulations at NASA MSFC to test vibrational compliance, electromagnetic interference (EMI), acoustic and e Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) integration verification.
The 3D printer will be preloaded with design blueprints for tools and other useful pieces of equipment, reducing the amount of stuff that has to be launched into space.