NASA to 3D print on Moon using lunar dust
image: Redwire Space

NASA to 3D print on Moon using lunar dust

A Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft recently docked with the International Space Station (ISS). Along with it came a special piece of equipment from Earth – a 3D printer that will make use of lunar dust to make solid material.

NASA is testing the printer developed by Redwire for use in its upcoming Artemis moon missions. The space agency hopes to make the moon’s dusty soil as raw material for printing. The main idea is to make use of available materials on the lunar surface to make what is required rather than having to send heavy equipment all the way from earth.

Using simulant for testing

Engineers have been working on this idea for some time now and have demonstrated the process on Earth. But ferrying a 3D printer into the microgravity of the ISS is a huge step in shaping the tech for use. The researchers want to determine whether the tech works without gravity and how strong the printed materials will be.

The printer uses simulant, which is a human-made compound of chemically similar material to moon dust. This is because real samples from the lunar surface are rare. But the simulant is close enough to test the printer. It is used as feedstock to print out use parts and materials.

Could be used on other planets

Redwire says that how it is used to make small fittings, the technology can come in handy for printing larger and more complex parts like landing pads, roads, and places for astronauts to live inside. NASA notes that the technology could eventually be used on other planets as well during crewed missions to Mars, where it will leverage dusty Martian soil to 3D-print structures.

Previously, another team developed a 3D printer named Vulcan that can function on Moon using local lunar materials. The 3D printer can print up to a height of 8.5 feet, a width of 28 feet, and a length of 70 feet. Besides, it can print a house with a speed of around 7-inches per second. In October last year, ICON and a few students developed a landing pad built completely out of the materials extracted from the lunar surface.

Disclaimer: The above article has been aggregated by a computer program and summarised by an Steamdaily specialist. You can read the original article at redwirespace
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