Nov 5, 2015 | By Alec

Photo: MSU Space Science and Engineering Laboratory.

When it comes to 3D printing and the aerospace field, we have fortunately seen success story after success story, but that wasn’t going to last forever. Some unfortunate news has just been released by Montana State University, which has revealed that their PrintSat, a 3D printed experimental satellite was destroyed during a failed launch on Hawaii. The rocket, carrying the PrintSat and twelve other research satellites, failed to launch on Tuesday night, destroying its entire cargo.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite clear what went wrong. The official story simply said the launch failed, but the MSU website now refers to another story that videos were made showing the 67-foot Super Strypi rocket lifting off successful, before veering out of control and breaking apart about a minute later. The launch took place at the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. The Super Strypi launcher was recently developed by Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Hawaii as a low-cost solution for satellite launches, and this was the first orbital launch with this type of rocket taking place at the base.

This is a real shame, because the cargo was quite precious in 3D printing terms. Called the PrintSat, this satellite was the first CubeSat model partially constructed with 3D polymer printing technology. Built by a team of space professionals and MSU students, its purpose was to test 3D printing applications in space to see what more it can achieve in space exploration.

MSU’s Space Science and Engineering Laboratory is led by David Klumpar who said the team working the satellite were disappointed, but only became more motivated to build the next version over the next year. ‘This is just a part of the space business and our students learn (unfortunately, some times the hard way, like last night) that no matter how well we do our job on the satellite, there are other systems that are beyond our control that also have to perform flawlessly,’ he said. ‘We will not be deterred by this loss. I already am working plans to rebuild the satellite and fly it again; perhaps in a little less than a year.’

This interesting satellite was tiny – about the size of a one quart juice box and weighed less than a single kilogram (visible above). While these model satellites are usually made with traditional manufacturing, this particular model was 3D printed in powdered polymers by the PrintSat team. While 3D printed parts have been used in spacecraft before, Klumpar argued that this was the first instance in which the structural elements and mechanisms of a satellite were 3D printed.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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