Archinaut Project Conducts First Large-Scale Additive Manufacturing Build In Space-Like Environment

Archinaut, a NASA Technology Demonstration Mission (TDM) project developing cutting-edge technology to build and assemble complex hardware and supersized structures on demand in space, achieved an unprecedented milestone this summer.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time additive manufacturing has been successfully tested on such a large scale in the vacuum and temperature conditions of space,” said Eric Joyce, Archinaut project manager for Made In Space Inc. of Mountain View, California, which spearheads the project for NASA.

The Archinaut test series, using Made In Space’s innovative Extended Structure Additive Manufacturing Machine, was conducted in a vacuum chamber in the Engineering Evaluation Laboratory at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

The team conducted hundreds of hours of tests to complete the series. Working around the clock for much of June, they printed large beam segments — similar to those used to construct a variety of space structures — and subjected printing equipment and printed hardware alike to the pressures, temperatures and other rigors of deep space.

“This was a big step for us,” Joyce said. “It advances the technology — and gives us real confidence the hardware will do the job in space that it does here on the ground, enabling us to print sturdy, reliable structures of unlimited size. It was a history-making test.

Archinaut is one of three “tipping point” projects NASA is funding in pursuit of groundbreaking new solutions under the umbrella of TDM’s In-space Robotic Manufacturing and Assembly (IRMA) project, sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. These projects help NASA determine whether the technology has been sufficiently matured to pursue flight demonstrations or for infusion into future exploration missions.

“We couldn’t be more pleased about Archinaut’s successful demonstration,” said Trudy Kortes, TDM program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “In-space…

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