Femtosatellite launcher 3D printed in space

Mouser Electronics

Thursday, 20 April, 2017


The winning design of the International Space Station (ISS) Design Challenge, an initiative of Mouser Electronics, has been 3D printed in space.

The ISS Design Challenge gave people a chance to help astronauts aboard the International Space Station with a device that improves their jobs or daily life. The winning design would be digitally transmitted to the ISS, where it would be 3D printed by Made In Space’s Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) — the first commercially available off-world manufacturing service and the only 3D printer adapted for use in the vacuum of space.

The winner of the competition was Andy Filo, who designed a device that allows astronauts to launch femtosatellites (tiny satellites about the size of a postage stamp and weighing less than 100 g) in zero gravity. Scientists can use femtosatellites in many different missions and applications, including monitoring disasters, studying Earth’s environment and even flying in formation to create a giant antenna for deep space analysis.

“It has a microprocessor, it has a number of sensors on it — a magnetometer, a gyroscope, and then we’re also using the memory,” said Filo. “These are things that can describe asteroids passing by, coronal events from the Sun and cosmic rays from the stars.”

Made In Space and Filo made some last-minute modifications after the ISS received the original design, rounding the handle to increase usability and comfort, and further editing the design to increase printing speed. The device is now in orbit and may one day be used by astronauts for a variety of missions.

Pictured: The winning design.

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