Aug 17, 2017 | By David

In this image made from video provided by NASA, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Ryazansky holds a mini satellite before launching it by hand from the International Space Station on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (NASA via AP) 

Spacewalking cosmonauts set free the world's first satellite made almost entirely with a 3D printer on Thursday. The satellites were launched manually by cosmonauts Fedor Yurchikhin and Sergei Ryazansky. One of the satellites, Tomsk TPU-120, was produced almost entirely using 3D printing technology, making it the first 3D printed satellite to be launched by Russia. Tomsk TPU-120 will be orbiting for around 6 months.

Launching the satellites manually from the International Space Station requires the cosmonauts to work with a new state-of-the-art spacesuit, the Orlan MKS. This is equipped with an automated thermal control system and a synthetic, hermetically sealed shell. The output hatch of the docking compartment "Pirs" was opened on August 17 at 17.45 Moscow time, and the cosmonauts will be working for around 6 hours. Firstly the test vehicle, the TS530-Mirror, was launched, followed by the Tomsk TPU-120 and the other satellites, the Tanyusha-YuZGU and the TNS-0 No.2.

The Tomsk-TPU-120 and the Tanyusha-YuZGU satellites were developed in a collaboration between Tomsk Polytechnic University and the Southwestern State University, as well as RSC Energia. The launch of the Tomsk TPU-120 coincides with the 120th anniversary of the university, and this is what gave it its name. This is not the only commemoration involved with this launch. As well as surveying the Earth’s surface and transmitting data to its other, the satellites will broadcast congratulations on the radio in honor of the 60th anniversary of the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite, as well as the 160th anniversary of the birth of the space theorist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.

The class of nano-satellites is a group of craft that have a mass of between 3 and 30 kg. The TNS-0 No.2 is the smallest of this bunch, weighing less than 4kg. The 3D printed Tomsk TPU-120 is also a very lightweight device, and it measures 30 cm x 11 cm x 11 cm. The exterior casing of the Tomsk TPU-120 tossed overboard was made with a 3D printer. So were the battery packs inside. Researchers want to see how 3D printed parts weather the space environment.

The 3D printed satellite contains regular electronics. It also holds greetings to planet Earth in a variety of languages. The other satellites deployed Thursday have traditional spacecraft parts. They're expected to orbit for five to six months.

According to Sergei Psakhie, the director of Institute of Strength Physics and Materials Science (IFPM), "The technology is becoming much more compact, and what used to require large volumes can now be placed in a small building, so a whole wave of development of nanosatellites has risen.’’

Yurchikhin and Ryazanskiy completed the satellite releases within an hour of venturing outside. Barely a minute passed between a few of the launches. The cosmonauts also collected science experiments from outside their 250-mile-high home.

This trend of increasingly smaller satellites has been enabled by the development of more advanced manufacturing technologies like 3D printing, and the launch of the Tomsk TPU-120 is intended in part to test the viability of this technology.


 

 

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