Important milestone – successful completion of the 10th measurement campaign with the PK-4 plasma crystal laboratory on the ISS.
For the first time, the German Space Operations Center has taken over the scientific support of the PK experiments.
COVID-19 protection measures – DLR scientists from Oberpfaffenhofen maintain contact with the PK-4 Control Centre in Toulouse and the ISS.
Unique insights using PK-4 – plasma crystals can form in microgravity. The plasma particles behave like atoms and can be observed individually with the naked eye.
OBERFAFFENHOFEN, Germany (DLR PR) — Under normal circumstances, the researchers would have gone to Toulouse, as only from there can they control the PK-4 plasma crystal laboratory, which has been on board the International Space Station (ISS) since 2015. However, the Coronavirus pandemic has made travelling from Oberpfaffenhofen to the CADMOS Control Centre in France impossible. The experiments under microgravity conditions, which had taken months of preparation, were at risk of being cancelled.
Video Caption: Presenting Europe’s first 3D printer designed for use in weightlessness, printing aerospace-quality plastics. ESA’s Manufacturing of Experimental Layer Technology (MELT) project printer has to be able to operate from any orientation – up, down or sideways – in order to serve in microgravity conditions aboard the International Space Station. Based on the ‘fuse filament fabrication’ process, it has been designed to fit within a standard ISS payload rack, and to meet the Station’s rigorous safety standards.
The MELT printer can print a wide variety of thermoplastics from ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), as used in Lego, up to high-melting point engineering thermoplastics such PEEK (Polyether ether ketone), which is robust enough to substitute for metal materials in some cases.
The printer was produced for ESA by a consortium led by Sonaca Space GmbH together with BeeVeryCreative, Active Space Technologies SA and OHB-System AG. The MELT project was supported through ESA’s Technology Development Element programme, which identifies promising technologies for space, then demonstrates their workability.