Historically, when you talk about getting things into space, it’s always been attached to a rocket.
Not anymore. At least, that’s the idea behind Project Archinaut spearheaded by Made In Space, a company founded in 2010 headquartered at NASA Ames in Mountain View. Made In Space made history in 2014 when it put the first ever 3-D printer on the International Space Station, printing the first ever object off of Planet Earth.
NASA has awarded Made In Space with its latest effort: manufacturing large scale objects in space. This is what Archinaut is all about.
“It’s not a 3-D printer anymore, it’s a robotic manufacturing capability that is launched into space,” explained Jason Dunn, Made in Space Chief Technology Officer. “Once it get there, it builds entire spacecraft, large trusses that you can build a new space station out of.”
The idea, according to Dunn, is about five years away from reality. At that point, he and the company believe they can offer the right technology to get picked up by the commercial sector.
“We’re a lot closer than most people think. The current Archinaut program with NASA is in the initial period so a lot of technology development, but we are on the five-year horizon to doing some really large-scale structures in space,” said Dunn.
Made In Space’s latest project is a second-generation 3-D printer that is sitting on a Launchpad now on Cape Canaveral in Florida. Dunn said it’s slated to be on the space station in March. Once installed, he added, technically everybody on Earth has access to manufacturing in space. The process is simple: send a digital file of the part desired, Made In Space sends that to the printer, and the part is manufactured.