MOSCOW, September 21 (RIA Novosi) - NASA has sent a 3D-printer to the International Space Station in order to enable quick replacement of parts directly on the spot and decrease astronauts’ dependence from Earth, New York Post reports.
"We've been building tools for thousands of years. This is the first time that it's not happening down here, but up there [in space]. That's paradigm shifting," said Aaron Kemmer, the CEO and co-founder of “Made in Space”, manufacturer of the first 3D printer designed to work in conditions of imponderability.
The 3D printer will allow astronauts to quickly replace worn-out space parts with those “printed” directly on-site. It will also help them become more independent from Earth and conduct longer unsupported missions. In the long run, if the experiment is successful it will further the development of space travel and interplanetary construction, enabling people to move into space.
“We really can’t afford to bring everything we need for an indefinite amount of time. We’ll need to get to the point where we can make things that we need as we go,” said Jeff Sheehy, NASA’s senior technologist, adding that the new technology would enable manufacturing of all necessary items on-site.
Over the past few years, 3D-printing technology became very popular, especially in the space industry. Recently, it has been successfully used by NASA to construct rocket engines, equal to their handmade counterparts in terms of quality.
The printing process in space is going to remain the same as on Earth. Objects will be “printed” with composite materials and then sent back to Earth in order to test their composition and strengths.
According to the recent data from NASA, the SpaceX Dragon capsule carried the 3D printer and 5,000 pounds of space station cargo, blasting off for the International Space Station on Sunday.