Made In Space, Inc. is a company developing space manufacturing technology to support exploration, national security, and sustainable space settlement. They combine additive manufacturing (3D printing) with robotic assembly and autonomous quality verification to produce functional structures built in space.
Manufacturing in space has many benefits, including:
- Production of custom tools and parts, reducing the dependence on terrestrial resupply.
- Reduced volume by launching dense 3D printer feedstock.
- Structures aren't subjected to the forces during launch allowing more fragile designs that reduce mass.
- Enable crafts to deploy large surface area power systems and reflectors.
- Manufacture of space-enabled materials that cannot be produced on Earth due to constraints from gravity. Microgravity lets materials grow without encountering surfaces, and allows them to mix evenly and hold together without traditional supports.
The company was founded in August 2010 by Aaron Kemmer, Jason Dunn, Michael Snyder, and Mike Chen who met at Singularity University. The company’s headquarters are in Jacksonville, Florida with facilities in Mountain View, California and Huntsville, Alabama.
Made In Space has been awarded numerous grants and contracts from NASA. In July 2019, Made In Space was awarded a $73.7M NASA contract to additively manufacture ten-meter beams onboard Archinaut One, a small satellite scheduled to launch in 2022.
Manufacturing optimized structures in space such as communication antennae, large scale space telescopes, large surface area power systems, and other complex structures reduces volume limits for spacecraft.
Made In Space is a partner in the Archinaut project, a satellite set for launch in 2022. Onboard Archinaut One will be a Made In Space 3D printer and robotic arm to manufacture two ten-meter-long wings of solar arrays. This approach is estimated to produce five times more power than a traditional solar panel on a similar size spacecraft.
The Optimast-SCI (Structurally Connected Interferometer) satellite employs extended structure manufacturing technology, validated in the Archinaut Development Program, to allow the deployment of a 10-50 meter optical boom interferometer from a smallsat bus. The satellite relies on autonomous, robotic in-space manufacturing and assembly to enable larger, effective apertures.
The Archinaut is able to provide solar array systems for power improvements, implement key technologies for on-orbit refueling and resupply missions, the ability to reconfigure launch infrastructures from assets ordinarily known as space debris, remote sensing, telecommunications, as well as baseline interferometry for exploring multiple investigative applications.
Zirconium barium lanthanum aluminum sodium fluoride (ZBLAN) fibers have data transmission advantages compared to silica optical fibers. ZBLAN fibers manufactured on Earth contain flaws that cause signal loss making it commercially inviable. Earth's gravity causes the heavier elements to settle and the lighter elements to rise to the top producing a non-uniform material.
The Made In Space Fiber Optics (MIS Fiber) miniature fiber-pulling machine harnesses the unique properties of the microgravity environment to produce ZBLAN optical fiber. In January 2018, the first ZBLAN optical fiber was manufactured on the International Space Station (ISS). Made in Space has partnered with Thorlabs to industrialize the production of optical fiber in space.
Made In Space's Industrial Crystal Facility (ICF) is designed to explore the growth and formulation of inorganic large single crystals and other exotic materials in microgravity. Terrestrial systems are either high-temperature frequency-limited or low-temperature and confounded by gravity effects. Intended applications include nonlinear optical single crystals and other relatively large material formulations, such as bulk single-crystal thin films and high-temperature optical fiber.
The Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) is the first permanent commercial manufacturing platform to operate in low Earth orbit. AMF is installed onboard the ISS, since its activation in 2016 it has produced over 200 tools, assets, and parts in orbit.
Made In Space's VULCAN system combines several manufacturing technologies into one system to produce precision metallic, polymer and hybrid parts. Utilizing additive and subtractive manufacturing, VULCAN is able to produce high-strength, high-precision polymer and metallic components in orbit. The system can be upgraded by adding and adapting different toolsets or extruders.
The Plastic Recycler produced by Made In Space is a robust, semi-autonomous manufacturing facility capable of processing polyethylene (PE) raw materials into usable 3D printing filament for the AMF aboard ISS. The Recycler will allow astronauts to convert plastic packaging and trash as well as objects previously fabricated by the 3D printer into feedstock to be reused by the printer.
The Plastic Recycler was developed through a partnership with Brazil-based, Braskem, Americas’ largest thermoplastic resin producer.
3D printers on the final frontier: Made In Space is building satellites that build themselves
September 2, 2019
Sparking the space economy