NASA Orion crew capsule will have special 3D printed parts

This 3D-printed docking hatch cover for NASA's Orion spacecraft is made of an advanced thermoplastic.                  Lockheed Martin

By partnering with Lockheed Martin and PADT to develop these 3D printed spacecraft parts, Stratasys will enable both the NASA Orion capsule and spacecraft in the future to withstand conditions that are now very hard to address.

The 3D-printed parts for the Orion capsule are being developed by Stratasys, a leading expert in 3D printing, together with engineering firm Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies (PADT) and global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin, details 3DPrint.com.

Orion's next test flight, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), will be the first integration mission with the world's most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, where Orion will fly thousands of miles beyond the moon during an approximately three-week mission.

The EM-2 mission will use more than 100 3-D printed parts on board. It is also the inaugural flight of 100 production-grade, thermoplastic 3D-printed parts. It will be made up of only six components. Reeves said the build-up of electric charge is a problem in space leading to a risk of "fried electronics or a unsafe spark inside a craft".

Lockheed Martin is among the first Stratasys customers using the next-gen materials. "We must consider this and more", said Scott Sevcik (Scott Sevcik), Vice-President of Stratasys. Such technology could one day be used to print new components and tools while stationed on other planets or celestial bodies.

3D printing has been used in a variety of industries, ranging from hobbyists making cool gadgets at home to multi-million dollar corporations using it as part of their manufacturing.

"We look to apply benefits across our programs - missile defence, satellites, planetary probes, especially as we create more and more common products", said Brian Kaplun, additive manufacturing manager at Lockheed Martin Space to Reuters.

This isn't the first time that 3D printed parts have been used in space.

The concept of 3D printing, while it has applications in nearly every sector, is being actively pursued in connection with space exploration, especially amidst the race to Mars, since 3D printed parts be printed remotely without the need of extensive manufacturing set-ups.

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