NASA just announced in a press release that the agency plans on 3D-printing large components in low-Earth orbit instead of flying them up into space. The technology was developed as a result of the agency’s partnership with Made in Space, an in-space manufacturing company based out of California. After years of development and testing in a NASA facility that imitates conditions in space, the company has now landed a $73.7 million USD contract from NASA to demonstrate the technology in actual space.
The mission would involve Archinaut One launching aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket down in New Zealand in or after 2022, reaching its designated low-Earth orbit. Once there, the spacecraft will 3D-print two 32-foot beams out from either side of its body, which then unfurls two massive solar panels, capable of generating almost five times more power than traditional solar panels on a spacecraft of the same size.
“In-space robotic manufacturing and assembly are unquestionable game-changers and fundamental capabilities for future space exploration,” said associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate Jim Reuter. “By taking the lead in the development of this transformative technology, the United States will maintain its leadership in space exploration as we push forward with astronauts to the Moon and then on to Mars.”
Elsewhere in tech, Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Bitpoint lost $32 million USD to hackers.