Lockheed Martin will team up with 3D printing experts Stratasys and the engineering firm PADT to 3D print more an 100 parts for NASA’s new crew capsule Orion. Stratasys says the 3D printed parts will be made from new materials engineered for deep space travel.
The Vice President of Manufacturing Solutions at Stratasys, Scott Sevcik told media about the new materials. "In space, for instance, materials will build up a charge," he said. "If that was to shock the electronics on a spacecraft there could be significant damage."
3D printing allows cheap flexible design
The use of 3D printing in spacecraft design was pioneered by space exploration startups like Rocket Lab. Sevcik says using 3D printed parts gives the designers of the space capsule more freedom and doesn’t hold them back to use existing parts or technologies.
Printing on demand also lowers the price of complex spaceship construction. The companies hope that this initial design 3D printing endeavor will open doors to other ways to use the technology in satellite design and robotic spacecraft.
Orion forms an integral part of NASA’s plan to build a spacecraft for deep-space missions. The Orion crew capsule is intended to take humans further into space than we have ever gone before, including missions to Mars and the Moon.
Orion will act as an exploration vehicle, emergency refuge center as well as provide the protection for re-entry to Earth. Orion missions will be launched with NASA’s heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Unmanned Orion will head towards Moon
Its first mission called Exploration Mission-1, will see an uncrewed Orion head out into space and go beyond the Moon for a total travel time of about three weeks. The mission will allow NASA to gather crucial data about its performance that will lead to the first manned mission that will take place in the early 2020s.
NASA has accelerated its deep space research focus after decades of focussing on low earth orbit projects. President Donald Trump signed off on the Space Policy Directive 1, which instructs NASA to train crew and test equipment destined for Mars on the Moon first.
Moon is key to Mars mission says, astronauts
Three key players from the Apollo 17 mission recently met as part of a panel discussion at the 49th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Lunar module pilot Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, Apollo 17 flight director Gerry Griffin and backroom scientist Jim Head used the panel appearance to push for a research agenda that includes missions to the Moon.
"Mars ain't gonna be easy," Schmitt said during the panel. "There are a whole bunch of operational issues related to not only landing on Mars, but also working on Mars, that we really need to work out closer to Earth, and the moon is a place to do that."