MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--History was made on the International Space Station (ISS) early Tuesday morning when the first 3D printer built to operate in space successfully began manufacturing. This is the first time that hardware has been additively manufactured in space, as opposed being launched from Earth.
“When the first human fashioned a tool from a rock, it couldn’t have been conceived that one day we’d be replicating the same fundamental idea in space,” said Aaron Kemmer, CEO, Made In Space, Inc. “We look at the operation of the 3D printer as a transformative moment, not just for space development, but for the capability of our species to live off Earth.”
The first part made in space is a functional part of the printer itself - a faceplate for its own extruder printhead. “This ‘First Print’ serves to demonstrate the potential of the technology to produce replacement parts on demand if a critical component fails in space,” said Jason Dunn, Chief Technical Officer for Made In Space.
For the entirety of the space program, tools and parts have been built on Earth and required a rocket to get to space. The presence of a 3D printer onboard the ISS will allow hardware designs to be made on Earth and then digitally beamed to the space station, where the physical object will be created in a matter of hours. “For the first time, it’s no longer true that rockets are the only way to send hardware to space,” said Mike Chen, Chief Strategy Officer for Made In Space.
The “3D Printing in Zero-Gravity Experiment” is being jointly conducted by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and Made In Space, which designed and built the 3D printer for NASA through their Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
“The ISS has provided us with an ideal laboratory for demonstrating this game-changing technology that will not only benefit the station, but will also enable sustainable deep space missions,” said Niki Werkheiser, program manager for the project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Following the initial printing phase, NASA and Made In Space will be conducting additional additive manufacturing experiments onboard ISS. A second printer will be launched to the ISS next year, which will serve as an invaluable tool for astronauts, government and also commercial businesses on Earth.
“In 1957, Sputnik became the first man-made object in space and, 12 years later, that led to humans setting foot on the moon,” said Kemmer. “Now, in 2014, we’ve taken another significant step forward – we’ve started operating a machine that will lead us to continual manufacturing in space. Decades from now, people will look back to this event…it will be seen as the moment when the paradigm of how we get hardware to space changed.”
Press Kit: http://madeinspace.us/presskit/