In order to invade the space with 3-D printing technology, the US space agency NASA is sending a 3-D printer to the International Space Station (ISS), hoping to fix the spacecraft by cranking out the spare parts.
The 3-D printer is built by Northern Californian firm ‘Made in Space’. It is among over 5,000 pounds of space station cargo that’s filled into a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, whose launch was called off on Saturday amid bad weather conditions.
The Falcon 9 rocket with an unmanned Dragon spacecraft is re-scheduled to blast off at 1:52 am on Sunday from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station amid slightly better weather conditions.
The launch will also be covered live at around 12:45 EDT on the NASA TV and NASA’s launch blog.
The Dragon capsule is carrying more than 5,000 pounds of supplies, science experiments and technology demonstrations that include decisive materials supporting 255 research and scientific investigations during the ISS’ Expeditions 41 and 42.
Among the two experiments include- Ames student Fruit-Fly Experiment and Seedling Growth-2.
The main aim of the Ames student Fruit-Fly Experiment is “to have a better understanding of the relation between oxidative stress and neurobehavioral adaptation to microgravity in the fruit fly.”
On the other hand, the second experiment’s objective is to grow seeds from the Arabidopsis thaliana plant into small seedlings in space in order to better comprehend the cellular signaling mechanisms behind the growth and movement of plant.
The small 3-D printer on board Dragon capsule is a demo unit that is aimed at churning out sample items built from the same type of plastic that were used for Lego bricks. The printer is designed in such a way so that it can be operated safely in weightlessness inside a sealed chamber. Scientists say the printing process is the same as on our planet, i.e. creation of an object with layer upon layer of plastic.
Scientists say after the 3-D creations are returned to the Earth, they will be pulled, twisted and peeled and then they will be subjected to a lot of tests to find out the quality of the parts.
The measurement of the 3-D printer follows: a foot tall, 9½ inches in width and 14½ inches in depth, counting the knobs on the front. A commercial 3-D printer is twice the size of the small printer (to be sent on Sunday). It is dubbed as a ‘big brother”. The printer will be kicked off for space next year along with a grinding machine for recycling discarded 3-D pieces.