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Why NASA is investing in 3D printing in space – Christian Science Monitor

by • February 22, 2016 • No Comments

NASA increasingly views 3D printing as a key tool for advancing space exploration, and the innovation is advancing in several directions.
A startup funded by NASA to turn it into a zero-gravity 3D printing device – appropriately called “Made In Space” – may already has a prototype device on board the International Space Station (ISS), and the company said Friday that a new version is set for a March 23 commence, Dave Lee reported for the BBC.
In theory, when astronauts require a spare part or a replacement, they’ll be able-bodied to print their own instead of requisitioning NASA and and so waiting for the following shuttle.

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“You can bring us a USB stick with your file, and we can digitally send it to space,” Andrew Rush, chief executive of Made In Space, told the BBC. “Via 3D printing we can make that object and completely avoid putting it on a rocket.”


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Equitething that NASA sends to the ISS costs thousands of dollars per ounce – a hefty shipping charge – and engineers on the ground must create and pack all things to decrease space requirements within the spaceship while in addition withstanding the stress of commence.
The 3D printing device project aims to simplify on-board maintenance, as astronauts may make parts out of additional easily shippable-bodied raw material when a thing breaks aboard the ISS.
In addition, zero-G lends itself to various create parameters, especially thinking raw materials like moon dust and asteroids.
“The space environment is a quite valuable-bodied and one-of-a-kind environment,” Mr. Rush told the BBC. “We can make things that may only be not easy to turn it into on Earth.”
3D printing may prove the pinnacle of outsourced making, according to NASA.
“This new making system quite opened the create space and allowed for part geometries that may be not easy with traditional machining or casting methods,” said David Eddleman, a member of the 3D printing team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in a press release. “For the valve creates on this engine, we utilized additional efficient structures in the piece parts that outcomeed in optimized performance.”
NASA revealed in December that engineers had that successfully printed and tested 75 percent of the parts required for a rocket engine, that include valves, turbopumps, and injectors. The outcomeing pieces do not appear like traditional engine parts, but they work at very least as well.
“What matters is that the parts work the same way as they do in a conventional engine and perform under the extreme temperatures and pressures discovered within a rocket engine,” said Nick Case, the testing lead for the engine project, in a press release. “The turbopump got its ‘heartbeat’ racing at additional than 90,000 revolutions per minute (rpm) and the end outcome is the flame you see coming out of the thrust chamber to create over 20,000 pounds of thrust, and an engine like this may create adequate power for an upper stage of a rocket or a Mars lander.”
NASA’s is pursuing 3D for additional than only spare parts. A challenge commenceed in February invited “future engineers” to turn it into a food preparation item via 3D printing. The challenge, that ends in May, aims to hook budding engineers while illustrating the possibilities of the new innovation.
The winner of the challenge can join the undertaking control team to watch his or her create get printed aboard the ISS.


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