MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Made in Space’s customized 3D printer, the first off-Earth manufacturing device scheduled for arrival at the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014, successfully completed a crucial milestone towards flight certification at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Ala.
“This developmental testing was vital to the design of our flight unit printer. We’ve engaged in a fast-paced mission starting in early 2013 to produce hardware that NASA would qualify for launch and installation to the ISS in 2014. The fact that we’ve been able to pass another milestone in an abbreviated time frame is extremely exciting,” said Michael Snyder, Co-PI on the 3D Printing in Zero G Experiment, and Made in Space’s Director of R&D.
Made in Space delivered their proprietary prototype technology to MSFC on June 17th after passing microgravity tests at Houston’s Johnson Space Center earlier that month. The Engineering Test Unit (ETU) printer, whose design was accomplished in a six month Critical Design Phase (CDP), was subjected to rigorous environmental and functional testing. The results confirmed that the hardware design would survive launch and function in microgravity.
Simulated launch conditions were produced at NASA MSFC to ensure vibrational compliance. The battery of tests also included electromagnetic interference (EMI), acoustic and MSG integration verification. In each case the printer passed all significant tests. Additionally, the fit check indicated no issues with how printer hardware would integrate with the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG).
“Passing these developmental tests on the 3D Print test unit shows that our design strategies and philosophies were well-aimed. Our goal going into Critical Design Review (CDR) was to develop a design for a flight-ready unit. We hit our target,” said Snyder.
The success of the engineering prototype unit bodes well for the success of the flight unit model, which will undergo the same examination process.
“The data from the recent Engineering Test Unit environmental and functional testing at NASA MSFC serves as key input for the upcoming Critical Design Review. In order to pass CDR, the current design must be deemed 90% complete by the NASA CDR Standing Review Board. The successful results received from the ETU testing at MSFC reinforces our confidence that Made in Space, Inc. has developed the robust design required to successfully print in space. We are excited to have successfully completed yet another key step toward meeting the extensive ISS flight certification process,” said Niki Werkheiser, 3D Print project manager in Marshall’s Technology Development and Transfer Office.
This testing marked the next phase in the 3D Print Experiment conducted by Made in Space and NASA with the goal of demonstrating the viability of 3D printing for space missions. CDR of the flight unit prototype begins August 15, pushing the project steadily closer to ISS delivery via the SpaceX-5 rocket.
About Made in Space
Founded in 2010 with the goal of enabling in-space manufacturing, Made in Space set out to radically impact how we do space missions today. Made in Space’s team members and advisors include successful entrepreneurs (Aaron Kemmer, Jason Dunn, Mike Chen, Jason Lam, Alison Lewis), experienced space experts (three-time astronaut Dan Barry and Mission Lead Mike Snyder) and key 3D printing experts (Scott Summit, Gonzalo Martinez). Made in Space has partnered with top 3D printing companies to leverage this technology for use in space. The company’s Unique Innovation Lab has done over 20,000+ hours of testing of various 3D printing technologies, off-the-shelf and custom-built printers, and dozens of printer components.
For more information about Made in Space, visit: www.madeinspace.us
Follow on Twitter: @_MadeInSpace
Deputy Program Manager Matthew Napoli examines a 3D printed piece at Marshall Space Flight Center.
Co-PI on the 3D Printing in Zero G Experiment, and Made in Space’s Director of R&D, Michael Snyder examines the engineering unit 3D printer inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox.
Photo Credits: NASA/MSFC/Deaton