NASA will print spacecraft in space
The Agency officially confirmed that funds the development of technology for bulk printing in zero gravity. It is assumed that the spider robots-3D printers can right on orbit to create individual segments of future space stations and gather them into a single unit already in 2020.
The aim of the project is to create a 3D printer that can print a design of polymers and other materials in the absence of gravity, extremely harsh temperature and radiation regimes. You need to solve the problem of fixing the layers of the printed elements and their proper solidification in conditions such as very low temperatures away from direct sunlight and high temperatures under solar radiation. It is obvious that the company Tethers Unlimited, which is the contractor on the project, any idea how to achieve this because, judging by the presentation of NASA’s first robotic printer should begin construction in orbit in 2020.
Look these robots would be weird, but functional. The management platform will have multiple articulated gripper through which the robot will be recorded on the created design, and move along it. On the platform will be attached to the container with the source, a printing device, a small unit of solar panels, batteries, and actually the system control and communication. The robots will need to synchronize actions among themselves,to be able by joint efforts to collect from disparate parts of the overall design.
The ability to print any size and complexity patterns in space opens up revolutionary possibilities for the creation of objects, the design of which on Earth was never conducted, as there were no means for their delivery into orbit. For example, it is impossible to put into orbit a telescope with a rigid structure under a compound lens with a diameter of hundreds or even thousands of meters. But to build such an object using 3D printing in space is possible if you have the technology for such printing. In fact, with the construction of a unique telescope robotic printers, most likely, and will start operations in 2020.
The technology space of 3D printing will build on the orbit is much larger spacecraft than the ISS. It will significantly reduce the creation of space ships, as the required consumables assembled under conveyer can be delivered to orbit by reusable rockets Elon musk with the incredibly cheap cost of output in the space of one kilogram of goods, and already in place to turn robot new elements in giant structures. Finally, testing the robot printer in orbit, you can send them to the moon or Mars, build a base there.
Given the fact that robots will be able to print, including themselves, by replicating to infinity the required number of units for construction tasks, creating the most incredible in size and function space constructions in a very short time will become a reality. Of course, to print the Death Star from “Star wars” robots-printers will find it hard but in principle possible to create theoretically any scale scientific or industrial objects in Earth orbit, and in any other point in space engineers and designers will be here soon.
Interestingly, NASA development of the technology cost while only 600 thousand dollars. 100 thousand was allocated a year ago — in August 2012 — and 500 thousand on the days when the company Tethers Unlimited has provided the Agency with intermediate results.