NASA funds demo of 3D-printed spacecraft parts made, assembled in orbit

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NASA has awarded a $73.7 million contract to Made In Space, of Mountain View, California, to demonstrate the ability of a small spacecraft, called Archinaut One, to manufacture and assemble spacecraft components in low-Earth orbit.

The contract is the start of the second phase of a partnership established through NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. The public-private partnership combines NASA resources with an industry contribution of at least 25% of the program cost.

Archinaut One is expected to launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from New Zealand no earlier than 2022. Once it’s positioned in low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft will 3D-print two beams that extend 32 feet (10 meters) out from each side of the spacecraft.

The Archinaut team includes Made In Space, Northrop Grumman of Falls Church, Virginia, Ames, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The program is based at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

[Image courtesy: NASA]