Nov 7, 2017 | By Tess

A group of students from the Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) and the Caldwell High School in Idaho will have the chance to see a 3D printed satellite it designed launched into space this month, thanks to a partnership with Made in Space.

The satellite, a CubeSat named MakerSat-0, will be launched aboard a Delta II rocket this Friday November 10th from the Vandenberg Air Force Base. The student-built satellite will mark Idaho’s first satellite to be sent to space.

The students behind the MakerSat-0 satellite

(Image: Made in Space)

Not only a first for Idaho, the 3D printed CubeSat will be the first satellite ever to be sent to space for the explicit purpose of gathering data and information about how 3D printed polymer materials react and can endure when exposed to the harsh environments of outer space.

More specifically, the CubeSat will be deployed for several years and will gather real-time information about samples it carries of ABS, PLA, nylon, and PEI/PC ULTEM, all common plastic-based 3D printing materials. This information will be important in determining what kinds of parts have the potential to be additively manufactured in space.

The small but innovative satellite will reportedly already begin to record and transmit data within two hours of being launched, and will be traveling at an orbit speed of 17,000 mph at an altitude of 800 kilometers. At that speed and altitude, the MakerSat-0 will be passing the North and South Poles 14 times a day.

To keep the students who made the satellite involved in the project, they will be able to access all incoming data from the CubeSat from their smartphones. The small satellite will gather crucial information for space research about 3D printed polymers in space.

MakerSat CubeSat

“This is the first of two MakerSat missions that we’re launching in partnership with Made In Space,” explained Dr. Stephen Parke, NNU engineering professor. “The MakerSat missions will provide the space community with invaluable test data on how these materials react to oxygen plasma, ultraviolet and ionizing radiation, vacuum, extreme temperatures, and micrometeorite collisions.”

The second mission Dr. Parke is referring to will be the deployment of the MakerSat-1, which is being built in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS) using its onboard AMF 3D printing system. So far, Made in Space has successfully 3D printed the CubeSat’s structural frame, and says astronauts aboard the ISS will finish assembling the MakerSat-1 and dispatch it in early 2018.

“The MakerSat missions are going to provide us with materials research information that will be used for projects such as Archinaut, the first in-space, autonomous robotic additive manufacturing and assembly platform,” said Matt Napoli, Made in Space vice president of In-Space Operations.

International Space Station

(Image: NASA)

NASA has been investing more into CubeSat research recently, as the compact satellite systems are proving to be effective and useful for gathering particular types of data in space. Additionally, and thanks to smaller-scale electronics and sensors, CubeSats can do the work of older and larger satellites at a much lower cost (in the thousands of dollars, rather than in the millions).

The MakerSat-0’s launch is part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, a program which has chosen four CubeSats for the space agency's ELaNa XIV mission.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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