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NASA Awards $73.7 Million to Made in Space for 3D-Printed & Assembled Spacecraft Parts in Orbit

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 13, 2019

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a $73.7 million contract to Made In Space, Inc. 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 in-space robotic manufacturing and assembly technologies could be important for America’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

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 costs, shepherding the development of critical space technologies while also saving the agency, and American taxpayers, money.

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. As manufacturing progresses, each beam will unfurl two solar arrays that generate as much as five times more power than traditional solar panels on spacecraft of similar size.

“In-space robotic manufacturing and assembly are unquestionable game-changers and fundamental capabilities for future space exploration,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “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.”

The potential of these technologies is profound and includes such benefits as:

  • Enabling remote, in-space construction of communications antennae, large-scale space telescopes and other complex structures;
  • Enabling small satellites to deploy large surface area power systems and reflectors that currently are reserved for larger satellites;
  • Eliminating spacecraft volume limits imposed by rockets; and,
  • Avoiding the inherent risk of spacewalks by performing some tasks currently completed by astronauts.

Made In Space began working on Archinaut as a ground demonstration in 2016 and, just a year later, successfully 3D-printed structural beams in a unique NASA facility that mimics the conditions of space. In a thermal vacuum chamber at the agency’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, they were able to prove the printing equipment and printed hardware can withstand the pressure, temperature, and other rigors of space.

The Archinaut team includes Made In Space, Northrop Grumman of Falls Church, Virginia, Ames, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program within the Space Technology Mission Directorate matures groundbreaking technologies to extend mission capabilities as well as government and commercial opportunities in space. The program is based at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

To learn more about NASA’s investments in space technology, visit:

2 responses to “NASA Awards $73.7 Million to Made in Space for 3D-Printed & Assembled Spacecraft Parts in Orbit”

  1. therealdmt says:

    Pretty wild. So the panels are going to be all wired up, too? Of course, it’s just a tech demonstration, but I wonder if they’ll try to make any use of the resulting solar panels

  2. Maxtrue says:

    I have often gotten negative responses here when stating that manufacturing must be done in space were we to really colonize the moon or Mars. The potential of a LEO economy and the untapped energy to be harvested should be obvious and the foundation of our efforts. Made in Space didn’t get much traction during the Obama years. Great news and much more will follow. Large solar fields, high temperature ovens and assembly machines utilizing LEO environment is the way to go. Its a lot easier and faster to send up powdered materials for 3-D and 4-D printing in micro-gravity than making everything on earth and launching it. A robotic rail/scram system can be developed to increase delivery of materials to LEO and within a decade there will be platforms in space representing industry and manufacturing. Hotels will follow:) Unless, of course America becomes a place where such things are less important than everything being free as capital flees to safer havens.

    Here they leave out space manufacturing

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