NASA 3D printer could be used to make tools and spare parts for the International Space Station by next year, instead of shipping them up from Earth. NASA is working with Made in Space to produce a 3D printer.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A California-based company that will launch a 3D printer to the International Space Station in 2014 is aiming to change the way space agencies think about how they transport goods to the orbiting outpost. But, using a machine to spit out spare parts for the space station is only the beginning.
Built by the firm Made in Space, Inc., the first 3D printer in space will launch to the space station aboard commercial spaceflight provider SpaceX's Dragon capsule. The mission will largely be a proof-of-concept flight, in which astronauts will use the device to demonstrate its functionality in the microgravity environment, Mike Chen, Made in Space co-founder and chief strategy officer, told an audience at World Maker Faire in Queens here on Sept. 21.
While astronauts will initially use the 3D printer to create spare parts and tools for the space station. Made in Space is hoping "makers" on Earth will get a chance to flex their creativity by coming up with designs for science experiments, innovative projects and artwork.