NASA Selects Tethers Unlimited to Develop ‘On-Orbit’ 3D Printing Technology
(Tethers.com) NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program has selected Tethers Unlimited, Inc’s SpiderFab technology for award of a $500,000 Phase II contract. Under the SpiderFab effort, TUI will continue to develop technologies to enable spacecraft to use 3D printing and robotic assembly techniques to fabricate and integrate large components on-orbit. The SpiderFab technologies will enable creation of space systems with antennas, solar arrays, shrouds, and other components ten times larger than are possible with current deployable technologies, providing higher power, bandwidth, resolution, and sensitivity as well as lower life-cycle cost for a wide range of missions.
“On-orbit fabrication allows the material for these critical components to be launched in a very compact and durable form, such as spools of fiber or blocks of polymer, so they can fit into a smaller, less expensive launch vehicle.” said Dr. Rob Hoyt, TUI’s CEO and chief scientist.
“Once on-orbit, the SpiderFab robotic fabrication systems will process the material to create extremely large structures that are optimized for the space environment.”
“This radically different approach to building space systems will enable us to create antennas and arrays that are tens-to-hundreds of times larger than are possible now.” said Dr. Hoyt. It will enable NASA to acquire and distribute a variety of forms of data at higher resolution, higher bandwidth, higher signal-to-noise, and lower life-cycle cost.