A 3-D printer intended for the International Space Station has passed its NASA certifications with flying colors—earning the device a trip to space sooner than expected. The next Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to launch in August, will carry the Made In Space printer on board.
"Passing the final tests and shipping the hardware are significant milestones, but they ultimately lead to an even more meaningful one – the capability for anyone on Earth to have the option of printing objects on the ISS. This is unprecedented access to space," stated Made In Space CEO Aaron Kemmer.
This 3-D printer will be the first to be used in orbit. Officials have already printed out several items on the ground to serve as a kind of "ground truth" to see how well the device works when it is installed on the space station. It will be put into a "science glovebox" on the International Space Station and print out 21 demonstration parts, such as tools.
"The next phase will serve to demonstrate utilization of meaningful parts such as crew tools, payload ancillary hardware, and potential commercial applications such as cubesat components," Made In Space added in a statement.
Once fully functional, the 3-D printer is supposed to reduce the need to ship parts from Earth when they break. This will save a lot of time, not to mention launch costs, the company said. It could also allow astronauts to manufacture new tools on the fly when "unforeseen situations" arise in orbit.
Check out more about the project in this past Universe Today story. Another NASA 3-D printer contract, given to the Systems & Materials Research Cooperation, could lead to a device to manufacture food for crew members.
Explore further: NASA prepares for 3-D manufacturing in space