Robots and 3D printers, the most exciting technology in the near future!
If you want to send a large piece of a spacecraft into orbit that can later be assembled into a larger product in space, it is common practice to build it on Earth and design it to fold up so it can fit into a rocket.
For the past year, NASA has been working with Tethers Unlimited, a space technology development company based out of Bothell, Wash., to find a better way. The space agency just awarded Tethers Unlimited an additional $500,000 to continue developing SpiderFab, a robotic 3D printing and assembly system that could build structures larger than half a mile wide in orbit.
Instead of specially engineering spacecraft components to fit into a rocket, NASA could densely pack materials like fiber and polymer into existing spacecraft and create the components while orbiting the planet. This cuts down on cost and opens up the possibility for larger spacecraft.
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