Archinaut 3D Printing Autonomous Space Manufacturing System

Archinaut enables autonomous 3D printing manufacture and assembly of spacecraft systems on orbit. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate selected the Made In Space project proposal for utilizing public-private partnerships to advance Tipping Point Technologies. Project Archinaut™, is designed to develop the first additive manufacturing, aggregation, and assembly of large and complex systems in space without astronauts to help.


(From Archinaut)

Archinaut enables a wide range of in-space manufacturing and assembly capabilities by combining space- proven robotic manipulation with additive manufacturing demonstrated on the International Space Station (ISS) and in terrestrial laboratories. Archinaut enables fundamentally new spacecraft designs and reduces the costs associated with qualifying a satellite for launch. The synergy of its manufacturing and assembly capabilities are critical to constructing entire spacecraft in orbit.

Traditionally, satellite design has been constrained by launch-shroud size and launch load/environment survivability requirements. Similarly, due to lift capacity limits and the high risk and low availability of astronaut EVA for assembly, creating large space-based structures such as space stations has been a once-in-a-generation endeavor. Archinaut minimizes or removes these and other design limitations.

An initial version of Archinaut is the Optimast™ boom manufacturing system. Optimast systems can be integrated into commercial satellites to produce large, space-optimized booms at a fraction of the cost of current deployables.

Other implementations of Archinaut enable in-space production and assembly of backbone structures for large telescopes, repair, augmentation, or repurposing of existing spacecraft, and unmanned assembly of new space stations. Spacecraft leveraging Archinaut are optimized for the space environment rather than the launch environment, enabling significantly more capable systems produced at lower costs as required for today’s commercial markets and NASA’s future mission needs.

When I read about this project, I immediately thought of the spider robot from Charles Sheffield's 1979 novel The Web Between the Worlds which extrudes building materials from its own body:

As Rob watched, the great, faceted eyes turned towards him. The Spiders were aware of his presence. Somewhere deep in their organic components lurked a hint of consciousness.

Corrie had been fascinated by them from the first moment she saw one. "Why eight legs?" she had asked.

Rob had shrugged. "It extrudes material like a spider. How many legs would you have given it?

Via and Made in Space - Archinaut.

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