Installed on 40-foot-long track, a giant robot helps NASA engineers design the most lightweight rocket components ever made. The new rockets are expected to help the U.S. space agency take Mars exploration missions one step further.
The robot is equipped with eight pairs of spools using composite fiber tape to form precise patterns just like a 3-D printer produces unique objects following human instructions.
The bot, which is located at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, uses its long track to go from one end to another of huge composite objects. For that purpose, its 21-foot metallic arm is designed to be able to move in various directions.
The fibers created by the robot are heated so they can be glued to various patterns. The head of the bot is also extremely flexible and can be programmed to work for a multitude of projects.
Dr. Preston Jones, Marshal center’s head of the engineering division, explained that the giant robot helps NASA with large rocket structures at lower costs and higher speed than other technologies would.
Dr. Jones argued that the large composite objects would be tested in future manned Mars mission as well. But as of now, researchers do not know yet how suitable the composites would be for human space exploration.
NASA’s engineers admitted that sending humans on Mars is not an easy task. NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS), the rocket slated to take human explorers to the Red Planet, is very complex and requires a plethora of different materials to construct.
But the new composite material may help NASA build lighter crafts, which is essential for deep space exploration. Engineers explained that the lighter the spacecraft is, the more crew members, food, and scientific instruments it can hold.
The new composites are a win-win approach for the space agency. They can greatly boost a rocket’s capacity, at lower costs, and less time.
Justin Jackson, one of the NASA engineers in charge with installing the bot and making sure that it runs smoothly, stated that the machine is able to build up to 26-feet-wide structures, which are the largest objects designed for space traveling to date.
In the last few years, composite technology experienced a big boost. But only recently, NASA used the technology to create composite materials that may take deep space exploration by storm.
NASA experts expect that Marshall’s giant robot may turn out to be a game changer since the materials it creates may soon become even more lightweight and less costly than they currently are.
Image Source: DNA India