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NASA awarded Friday a $ 73.7 million contract to Californian start-up Made in Space for a 3D printing demonstration using a small free-flying satellite for the additive manufacturing of solar panel bundles in the United States. # 39; space.
The Made in Space satellite mission, named Archinaut One, will print in 3D its own structures in orbit.
The small satellite is expected to be launched no sooner in 2022 from New Zealand on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket, according to NASA.
The contract announced Friday is in line with NASA's shared-cost public-private partnership with Made in Space to develop manufacturing technology in the Archinaut space. Made in Space first worked on the Archinaut program as a ground demonstration in 2016, according to NASA.
A year later, Made in Space successfully passed 3D-printed structural beams in a test chamber at the NASA Ames Research Center, which simulates the temperature and vacuum conditions of space.
According to NASA, Archinaut One will 3D print two beams extending 10 meters on either side of the probe.
"As manufacturing progresses, each beam will deploy two solar panels producing up to five times more energy than traditional solar panels installed on spacecraft of similar size," NASA said in a statement. .
Made in Space claims that 3D printed solar dams enable future energy-hungry missions, which could use smaller spacecraft launched by less expensive rockets, while generating electricity from a single source. conventional spacecraft much bigger.
NASA has stated that space-based manufacturing and robotic assembly technology would be demonstrated by Archinaut A mission could be important for future human expeditions on the Moon and Mars, where astronauts will be very far from the ground supply chains for spare parts and other equipment.
The manufacture of satellite components and structures in the space could also reduce the costs of launching and transporting future missions.
"Robotic manufacturing and assembly in space are undeniable assets and fundamental capabilities for future exploration of space," said Jim Reuter, deputy administrator of the mission's space technology mission. NASA. "By taking the lead in the development of this transformative technology, the United States will retain its leadership in space exploration as we move forward with astronauts on the moon and then on Mars."
A manufacturing capability in space could also allow the construction and assembly of large communication antennas, telescopes and other structures, NASA said.
Made in Space has tested the 3D printing technology of the International Space Station to demonstrate the manufacture in the space of tools for astronauts and fiber optic cables.
Archinaut One would be the company's first demonstration of 3D printing on a free-flying satellite.
Made in Space indicates that Northrop Grumman and Oceaneering Space Systems are subcontractors that contribute to the development of Archinaut's capabilities.
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