American off-world manufacturing specialist Made In Space, Inc. has confirmed its intentions to develop a system that will help to extend scientists’ gaze into space. In this project, the company’s Archinaut low-gravity truss 3D printing technology will be integrated into an interferometer satellite.
When linked together, multiple interferometers act as a kind of “virtual telescope” in space. With such a network, scientists can observes planets, stars and other matter up to 10,000 times longer than they can from a terrestrial observatory.
Michael Snyder, Made In Space Chief Engineer, comments, “The rapid evolution of our in-space manufacturing technology has introduced new, cost-effective capabilities to the market that can advance space exploration.”
“The application of this technology allows humanity to access new astronomical observation capabilities to explore our universe, and that is very exciting.”
Made In Space’s space interferometer is called the Optimast-SCI (Structurally Connected Interferometer) and will be developed in collaboration with Lowell Observatory in Arizona. As with other devices of this kind, the Optimast-SCI is defined by its ability to collect and merge data from two separate electromagnetic sources, i.e. light and radio waves. This process collects a series of patterns that can then be analyzed to discern valuable information, such as the size and distance of planets.
The difference with Optimast-SCI is that it will have self-fabricating capabilities. As stated in the Made In Space project brief:
“Optimast enables the manufacturing and deployment of large primary trusses unconstrained by launch loads or volume restrictions that meet science requirements for the high angular resolutions (in the milliarcsecond regime) necessary for applications such as characterization of planets near bright stars, and measurement individual objects in dense star clusters.”
Making of the Optimast-SCI
Made In Space’s Archinaut additive manufacturing technology is a robot assisted method theroetically capable of creating and assembling trusses of any scale. The method actually attained a Guinness World Record in 2018 for the “longest 3D printed non-assembled piece.”
Following a recent Low Earth Orbit (LEO) test, Archinaut additive manufacturing was verified for operation in space. Throughout the Optimast project, a total of two SCI modules will be made. Lowell Observatory’s role in the project will be the integration of modular internal optics bench capable of capturing Optimast’s sights in space.
Vote for your Aerospace Application of the Year in the 2019 3D Printing Industry Awards.
For Optimast-SCI project updates and more aerospace additive manufacturing news, subscribe to the 3D Printing Industry newsletter, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Seeking a new job? Make a profile to attract leading employers on 3D Printing Jobs now.
Featured image shows stars viewed near Lowell Observatory’s dark-sky site at Anderson Mesa. Photo by Jared Stern via Lowell Observatory