A project to 3D-print giant spacecraft parts in space instead of bringing them up there has made a $73.7 million contract from NASA in order to demonstrate the method in space. Archinaut might launch in 2022, which is a mission from Made In Space, now various years in development.
The problem is that if you need a spacecraft with 60 feet long solar arrays, you have to get 60 feet of structure so the arrays don’t flap around by stashing 10 six-foot ones, or 60-foot pole, or two 30-foot ones, etc. Now, this comes out to be really complicated for taking items with just one large dimension in the space.
Archinaut’s solution comprises of taking the material for the longer component in space and then printing it out at the site. Moreover, they don’t feel any other method as compact as this way for keeping the material just as the brick of solid matter. Moreover, there are many things which are too large for taking into space as a one-piece but they can consist of smaller ones if needed.
Made in Space has got contracts already in place with NASA, and has also illustrated 3D printing of various components aboard the International Space Station. It also includes printing things in an artificial vacuum which is more or less equivalent to the environment of the space.
Archinaut One, the demonstrator mission, would be launching aboard a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle, not before 2022, and after they achieve a constant orbit.