Idaho’s first Satellite, 3D printed and ready for launch.

MakerSat, Idaho’s first satellite will be launched by NASA and uses 3D printing to advance scientific discovery. The satellite was made by a team of two professors and four students from Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) who developed the device over two years. The research project will investigate how 3D printed materials behave in the vacuum of space.

Speaking to Idaho local news station, KBOI, NNU student Connor Nogales said, “We’d like to someday 3D print a spacecraft or a structure in space, and this satellite tests ‘how much material do we use?’ and ‘how much does it degrade in space?’” These are both important questions that must be resolved before 3D printing can become an integral part of space exploration. 

 The launch will be part of the ELaNa (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) program and is led by NNU  professor of electrical engineering Dr. Stephen Parke.

Five of the six MakerSat Team members. Image via Sinclair Broadcast Group


The MakerSat

NNU’s MakerSat is based on the CubeSat architecture, a miniaturized satellite composed of 10×10×11.35 cm cubic units.

The main objective of MakerSat is to chart a pilot course towards 3D printing at a much larger scale in space. The project will test 3D printing materials ABS, ULTEM and Nylon for mass degradation and take pictures of Earth while in orbit. Similar experiments using 3D printing in space include the Spider Fab proposal and 3D printing is increasingly in use for satellite projects, as previously reported by 3DPI. 

Once in orbit, MakerSat will travel around the Earth at speeds in excess of 17,000 mph for the next ten years. “Every 100 minutes it will complete one path around the Earth,” said Braden Grim, an NNU student and team member.

If the project is successful the team will move onto MakerSat 1. This second satellite will be assembled on the International Space Station (ISS)  from a 3D printed frame, fabricated in situ at ISS’s Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF).

More about the project can be found here.


MakerSat's 3D printed frame snaps easily
MakerSat’s 3D printed frame. Image via Northwest Nazarene University


Featured image via Sinclair Broadcasting Group.