NASA’s Perseverance Rover Bringing 3D-Printed Metal Parts to Mars

This video clip shows a 3D printing technique where a printer head scans over each layer of a part, blowing metal powder which is melted by a laser. It’s one of several ways parts are 3D printed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but was not used to create the parts aboard the Perseverance rover.

For hobbyists and makers, 3D printing expands creative possibilities; for specialized engineers, it’s also key to next-generation spacecraft design.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — If you want to see science fiction at work, visit a modern machine shop, where 3D printers create materials in just about any shape you can imagine. NASA is exploring the technique – known as additive manufacturing when used by specialized engineers – to build rocket engines as well as potential  outposts on the Moon and Mars. Nearer in the future is a different milestone: NASA’s  Perseverance rover, which lands on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021, carries 11 metal parts made with 3D printing.

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Indian Startup to Test Smallsat Launcher in Alaska

Indian startup Agnikul Cosmos Launch Vehicles has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to test its Agnibaan booster at the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska on Kodiak Island.

The agreement commits Agnikul and Alaska Aerospace Corporation to working together to obtain regulatory and export control approvals from the Indian and American governments for an initial test launch in 2022, CNBC TV18 reports.

“We are thrilled Agnikul has partnered with Alaska Aerospace for high inclination flight testing. Agnikul has established itself as a leading rocket technology company, and we are pleased Alaska’s proven launch infrastructure and expertise continue to attract new space launch companies from around the world,” said Mark Lester, president and CEO of Alaska Aerospace.

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NASA Looks to Advance 3D Printing Construction Systems for the Moon and Mars

ICON illustration of a conceptual lunar base with 3D printed infrastructure, including landing pads and habitats. (Credits: ICON/SEArch+)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — The process of building landing pads, habitats, and roads on the Moon will likely look different than the common construction site on Earth. Excavation robots, for one, will need to be lightweight yet capable of digging in reduced gravity. A large-scale construction system could be autonomous and equipped to work without astronauts’ help.

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Future Rocket Engines May Include Large-Scale 3D Printing

Blown powder directed energy deposition can produce large structures – such as these engine nozzles – cheaper and quicker than traditional fabrication techniques. (Credits: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — As part of the Artemis  program, NASA is returning astronauts to the Moon where we will prepare for human exploration of Mars. Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, experts from NASA, industry, and academia are pioneering methods to print the rocket parts that could power those journeys.

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Jordan Noone Steps Down as Relativity Space CTO

Jordan Noone at Relativity Space. (Credit: Jordan Noone)

Relativity Space Co-founder Jordan Noone has stepped down as chief technology officer (CTO) and will serve as an advisor to the launch provider, which is developing a 3D-printed booster.

“@relativityspace has been the dream of a lifetime. Yesterday I began a transition from CTO to Executive Advisor in preparation for starting my next venture,” Noone tweeted.

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CNES Conducts R&D Challenge for Future Launch Systems

PARIS (CNES PR) — On Wednesday, 24 June, research laboratories, start-ups, PMEs and other firms presented their work contributing to the launch systems of the future to a top-level audience. In all, €750,000 worth of CNES contracts were awarded to the laureates, which each received €50,000 or €100,000 to develop their solutions.

At its Innovation Day on 7 February in Toulouse, CNES announced a Launchers R&D Challenge under its Connect by CNES initiative, in partnership with ArianeGroup and ESA, designed to ease access to funding for launch systems.

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Relativity Space Signs Contract to Launch Iridium Satellites

Rendering of Terran 1 rocket luanching from potential future Vandenberg launch site. (Credit: Relativity Space)

Relativity’s 3D printed Terran 1 launch vehicle offers dedicated missions for Iridium ground spare satellite deployments

LOS ANGELES, June 24, 2020 (Relativity Space PR) — Relativity Space today announced that Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) has signed a launch contract to deliver satellites to orbit.

The contract includes flexible timing for up to six dedicated launches to deploy Iridium’s ground spare satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).  The launches will take place on an as-needed basis, determined by Iridium and utilizing Relativity’s Terran 1, the world’s first 3D printed launch vehicle. Launches are planned for no earlier than 2023.

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JAXA Selects 15 Innovative Micro Satellite Demonstration Projects

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has established a basic mission that uses micro satellites as part of the “environmental maintenance for stable supply of core parts of space systems” shown in the Basic Space Plan.

We are advancing the “Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Program” with the aim of conducting on-orbit verification of parts and new elemental technology in a timely and inexpensive manner.

We would like to inform you that we are soliciting demonstration themes for “Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Unit 3” and selected the demonstration themes (15 in total) from the 23 themes that we applied for, as shown below.

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Tests Start on 3D-Printed Thrust Chamber

additively-manufactured thrust chamber. (Credit; ArianeGroup GmbH)

LAMPOLDSHAUSEN, Germany (ESA PR) — Based on hot-fire tests of an Expander-cycle Integrated Demonstrator (ETID) that proved the technology and methods last year, ESA, ArianeGroup and DLR German Aerospace Center have built and hot-fire tested a fully additively-manufactured thrust chamber.

This first test lasted 30 seconds and was carried out on 26 May 2020 at the DLR German Aerospace Center’s Lampoldshausen testing facility. Additional tests are planned next week. The data from this test campaign will be collected and analysed.

This fully 3D-printed thrust chamber is built in just three parts and could power the upper stages of future rockets.

Additive layer manufacturing also known as 3D-printing, allows more complex designs for higher performance, vastly reduces the number of parts in this case from hundreds to three, and speeds up production time. This reduces costs and significantly improves the competitiveness of liquid propulsion engines for European launch vehicles.

This fullscale chamber has a 3D-printed copper liner with integrated cooling channels and a high-strength jacket built on via cold-gas spraying. Its manifold and single-piece injector head are also 3D-printed. 

The production and test of these parts has been performed within ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme.

Rocket Crafters Concludes Comet Engine Testing

Comet engine hot fire (Credit: Rocket Crafters)

COCOA, Fla., May 12, 2020 (Rocket Crafters PR) — Rocket Crafters, the first space launch company to use additive manufacturing to 3D print rocket fuel, announces the conclusion of testing for the Comet engine, a large-scale proof of concept test model of its STAR-3DTM hybrid rocket engine.

The tests were designed to show that the patent-pending hybrid rocket engines could scale from the laboratory to a size more commercially relevant. With 49 successful laboratory tests under their belt ranging from 250 to 500 pounds of thrust, Rocket Crafters initiated testing of the Comet 5000-pound thrust engine in February of this year.

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3D Printing Helps Essential Workers Face COVID-19

3D printed parts on a 3D printer at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany. (Credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

COLOGNE, Germany (ESA PR) — Knowledge and 3D printers at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany are being put to work in the fight against COVID-19 as part of a joint initiative to keep essential workers safe.

Usually used to print special items for astronaut training and test ideas for future spaceflight as part of Spaceship EAC, two open-source 3D printers are proving an ideal tool for producing components for face shields as part of a local MakerVsVirus initiative. Under this initiative, EAC contributes its parts to those supplied by a wider hub of makers. The completed face shields are then delivered to hospitals in need.

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Techshot Prints Knee Cartilage in Space

NASA Astronaut and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences graduate Dr. Andrew Morgan prepares the 3D BioFabrication Facility for meniscus test prints aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

GREENVILLE, Ind. (April 6, 2020) – Commercial space company Techshot Inc., used its space-based 3D bioprinter, called the BioFabrication Facility, or BFF, to successfully manufacture test prints of a partial human meniscus aboard the International Space Station (ISS) last month.

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3D Printing, Biology Research Make the Journey Back to Earth Aboard SpaceX’s Dragon

Christina Koch handles media bags that enable the manufacturing of organ-like tissues using the BioFabrication Facility. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — On March 9, 2020, a Dragon cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station carrying dozens of scientific experiments as a part of SpaceX’s 20th cargo resupply mission. Now, Dragon heads home. On April 7, it is scheduled to undock from station, bringing samples, hardware and data from completed investigations back to Earth on its return trip.

Here are details on some of the investigations returning to the ground for further analysis and reporting of results.

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Astronaut Christina Koch Services a 3-D Biological Printer

Christina Koch handles media bags that enable the manufacturing of organ-like tissues using the BioFabrication Facility. (Credit: NASA)

In this image from December 2019, astronaut Christina Koch handles media bags that enable the manufacturing of organ-like tissues using the BioFabrication Facility (BFF), a 3-D biological printer on the International Space Station. The BFF could become a part of a larger system capable of manufacturing whole, fully functioning human organs from existing patient cells in microgravity.

Learn more about science experiments aboard the station and how they helps improve life on Earth.