The next time a spacecraft needs an essential tool, might it just 3D-print the item on demand? That seems all the more likely with the news that the International Space Station (ISS) will get the first space-ready 3D printer in August.
Designed by Made in Space, a company with both 3D printing and space experts focused on the task, the 3D printer will travel to the ISS via the SpaceX CRS-4 later this summer. It passed certification ahead of schedule, and has been tested in microgravity flights.
The first 3D printer is actually a temporary one, which will be used to print 21 various parts that will then be returned back to Earth and analyzed. Later, a permanent printer will be installed with any tweaks needed based on this first trial run.
It may very well transform the way that future space missions prepare for life in space and deal with emergencies, and impact how much cargo is brought along on trips—which leads back to both fuel and storage issues.
A taste of space
Last week’s announcement of an ISS-bound espresso machine seems comparatively silly now, but surely some homesick—and exhausted—astronauts will appreciate the incoming addition.
Developed jointly by Italian engineering company Argotec and coffee brand Lavazza, the ISSpresso will go up to space in November as part of the Italian Space Agency’s Futura Mission, which will also shepherd the first Italian female astronaut into space.
Lavazza claims that it will “deliver a perfect espresso in [the] weightless environment,” with the hefty 20kg machine using a capsule system that allows it to brew espresso, tea, and broth, and rehydrate foods. Whatever keeps our spacefaring compatriots happy and alert, right?