Solving the Challenges of Long Duration Space Flight with 3D Printing

Solving the Challenges of Long Duration Space Flight with 3D Printing

The International space station has continuously been home to astronauts for quite nineteen years. Astronauts conduct scientific research using dozens of special facilities aboard the space station, which also provides them with a neighborhood to eat, sleep, relax and exercise. to make all of this possible requires sending quite 7,000 pounds of spare parts to the station annually. Another 29,000 pounds of spaceflight hardware spares are stored aboard the station and another 39,000 on rock bottom, ready to fly if needed.

This logistics network works well for a spacecraft that’s orbiting 250 miles above Earth and readily accessible to cargo resupply missions. it isn’t practical for future missions to the Moon and Mars, however. Astronauts on these long voyages need to be able to make their own spare parts, tools and materials essentially on demand – both for routine needs and to adapt quickly to unforeseen ones. In-space manufacturing (ISM) using 3D printing technology could be an answer.

The ISM project at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and its commercial partners are using the space station to see various technologies to provide this capability. The NASA Ames research center physics-based modeling group provides additional analysis and modeling support.

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