Today, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) has announced a new program to advance “Tipping Point” technologies that will bring on a new era of space exploration and commercial endeavors. And, while all 22 of the partnerships the space agency has partnered with 22 U.S. companies to drive the creation of new space technologies, one of the most exciting might be the project proposal from Made In Space. The Archinaut project will see Made In Space work with Northrop Grumman and Oceaneering Space Systems to create the first system for 3D printing and assembling large structures in space, without direct, manual intervention on the part of an astronaut.
Earlier this year, Made In Space was able to demonstrate that the company was capable of 3D printing in a vacuum, providing them with the evidence needed to go ahead and partner with NanoRacks to 3D print CubeSats aboard the International Space Station with their new Lowe’s Additive Manufacturing Facility, to be launched in the first half of 2016. With the Archinaut, they will now be able to move beyond the small-scale CubeSats and 3D print much larger, more complex structures. Andrew Rush, President of Made In Space, said of the news, “Archinaut is being designed from the ground up to be a truly cross-cutting technology, providing entirely new space capabilities for NASA and other government missions as well as both pre-existing commercial satellite manufacturers and emerging commercial space platforms.”
Together with Northrop Grumman and Oceaneering Space Systems, the company will work to first perform technology demonstrations as a part of their Phase I program, before, ultimately, aiming for 3D printing and assembling unlaunchable structures in space, including large-scale antennas and even base stations. Made In Space will, naturally, be providing their space-based 3D printing expertise, while Northrop Grumman will lend its knowledge around electronic interfaces and external thermal control analysis and Oceaneering Space Systems will go to work on designing and constructing the Archinaut’s manipulator arm.
Mike Snyder, Co-Founder and Chief Engineer for Made In Space, comments, “In addition to transforming the current state-of-the-art for space manufacturing, the development of the Archinaut capability will be a great opportunity for Made In Space to collaborate with established space companies which possess complimentary resources and proven expertise.”
Jason Dunn, Co-Founder and CTO of Made In Space, adds, “Archinaut is a major milestone on the roadmap for bringing large scale manufacturing to space. This announcement is a result of the technology development that has been underway since our company’s inception and sets the stage for what is to come in both the public and private sectors.”
Aside from the Archinaut project, NASA is also funding a number of other Tipping Point and Collaborative Opportunity programs that range from additional in-space manufacturing projects from Orbital ATK to nanosats, small spacecraft, rocket engines, and green propellant. To check out the full list of projects, see the NASA press release here and prepare for lift off!