Space Station Sunday! Space Crafts On The Spacecraft

It's a hot new technology on Earth, and now it's moving on up...literally. NASA announced this week that it will be sending a 3-D printer to the International Space Station on September 19th.

As reported by, the microwave-sized 3-D printer was created by NASA in conjunction with the "Made In Space" organization. The printer will aid astronauts by printing out small spare parts or tools that they otherwise might have had to wait days or weeks for, if sent up on a conventional supply launch.

NASA's 3-D printing project manager Niki Werkheiser stated, "The on-demand capability can revolutionise the constrained supply chain model we are limited to today and will be critical for exploration missions." If successful, NASA could feasibly equip long-distance space missions with printers for supplies of all sorts, someday maybe even including 3-D printed food.

The upcoming efforts will also be the first test of what happens with 3-D printing equipment in a microgravity environment. It is estimated that the machine would require 15 minutes to an hour to complete a task, hence perhaps as little as two hours for a design to be created on Earth, emailed to the ISS, and printed out for use in space. The printer is operable by the astronauts themselves, but can also be controlled by - who else - ground control at the Marshall Spaceflight Center's Operations Support Center.

According to, the printer went through a battery of tests to prove its mettle for microgravity, including EMI (electromagnetic interference), materials compliance, vibration endurance (for launch survival), human factors, and the ability to interface with elements aboard the ISS.  Thanks to Made In Space working closely with NASA, the required space-safety tests were passed with flying colors, and the printer was certified mission-ready this June.

The Made In Space company's enthusiasm for the project was bountiful, and they are excited not only by where the achievements will lead in the future, but what will be possible very soon.  Made In Space CEO Aaron Kemmer said, “Passing the final tests and shipping the hardware are significant milestones, but they ultimately lead to an even more meaningful one – the capability for anyone on Earth to have the option of printing objects on the ISS. This is unprecedented access to space. If you want to 3D print in space, contact us now."

The possibilities seem as vast as the stars...

As is the norm for NASA, even the device's development looked cool.

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