NASA sets challenge for space exploration.
Recently, I came across Berlin based Part-Time Scientists team featured in a magazine for their achievements in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition which includes a component made by additive technologies form SLM Solutions. Same day, turned on the TV and there it was again, the team’s Asimov lunar rover demonstrating how 3D printing is being used to manufacture components for space exploration.
Now NASA is working with eight U.S. universities on new technology projects for deep space exploration that will look at multidisciplinary approaches including 3D printing.
The challenge, which is led by NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation, has teams designing systems, concepts and technologies that will help improve NASA's exploration capabilities and provide students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in technology development. The projects will go towards missions such as the agency's journey to Mars, as part of the 2016 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge.
"These strategic collaborations lower the barrier for university students to assist NASA in bridging gaps and increasing our knowledge in architectural design trades, capabilities and technology risk reduction related to exploration activities that will eventually take humans farther into space than ever before," said Jason Crusan, director of NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) division.
The teams submitted their proposals earlier this year and are encouraged to partner with experts to enhance the science, technical, leadership and project skills for and inspire the pursuit of spaceflight-related disciplines.
During the 2015-2016 academic year, teams will meet a series of milestones to design, manufacture, assemble and test their systems and concepts in close cooperation with members of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. NASA staff from the directorate's Space Life and Physical Sciences and AES divisions will work with students in areas including additive manufacturing, advanced life support systems, space habitation and systems for food production in space.
The X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge supports NASA's research efforts to enable sustained and affordable human and robotic space exploration while contributing to the agency's efforts to train and develop a highly skilled scientific, engineering and technical workforce for the future.
Additive manufacturing has played a significant role in milestones for space exploration including Made In Space’s ground-breaking project to 3D print the first object to be manufactured in space. NASA has already successfully tested 3D printed rocket injectors and set itself the challenge of producing the first space cameras to be made entirely from 3D printed parts. More recently NASA awarded Tethers Unlimited with a contract to develop a system for recycling 3D printer filament from plastic waste on board the International Space Station.
The National Space Grant Foundation will administer the grants, which range from $10,000 to $30,000, to the universities on behalf NASA to fund design, development and evaluation of the projects by the selected teams during the 2015-2016 academic year.