Science & Technology

NASA's Deep-Space Capsule Orion To Have More Than 100 Parts 3D Printed

| April 18 , 2018 , 14:21 IST

The concept of 3D printing, while it has applications in almost every sector, is being actively pursued in connection with space exploration, especially amidst the race to Mars, since 3D printed parts be printed remotely without the need of extensive manufacturing set-ups.

For US space agency NAWSA's upcoming deep-space capsule Orion, more than 100 parts will be made by 3D printers, 3D printing specialist Stratasys said on Tuesday. Orion is a part of NASA's follow-up program to earlier space shuttles to allow astronauts to travel beyond the International Space Station.

The parts are being developed jointly by US defence contractor Lockheed Martin, Stratasys, and engineering firm PADT using new materials that can withstand the extreme temperatures and chemical exposures of deep space missions.

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"In space, for instance, materials will build up a charge. If that was to shock the electronics on a space craft there could be significant damage," Scott Sevcik, Vice President Manufacturing Solutions at Stratasys told Reuters.

The 3D printing technology can help make light-weight parts more quickly and cheaply than possible with traditional assembly lines that require major investments to set up.

"But even more significant is that we have more freedom with the design... parts can look more organic, more skeletal," Sevcik said.

NASA's European counterpart, the ESA has suggested that moon rock and Mars dust could be used to 3D print structures and tools, which could significantly reduce the cost of future space missions as less material would have to be brought along from Earth.

According to Lockheed Martin, the 3D printing used on the Orion project would also help in other parts of its businesses.

"We look to apply benefits across our programs - missile defence, satellites, planetary probes, especially as we create more and more common products," said Brian Kaplun, additive manufacturing manager at Lockheed Martin Space to Reuters.