My colleagues and I just 3D-printed a ratcheting socket wrench on the International Space Station by typing some commands on our computer in California. We had overheard ISS Commander Barry Wilmore (who goes by “Butch”) mention over the radio that he needed one, so we designed one in CAD and sent it up to him faster than a rocket ever could have. This is the first time we’ve ever “emailed” hardware to space.
We founded Made In Space, Inc. to design and build the first 3D printer for space. Our first printer was launched to the space station in September, and it printed its first object in November.
The socket wrench we just manufactured is the first object we designed on the ground and sent digitally to space, on the fly. It also marks the end of our first experiment—a sequence of 21 prints that together make up the first tools and objects ever manufactured off the surface of the Earth. (The other 20 objects were designed before the printer flew to the space station.)
How to Email a Wrench to the International Space Station