Apr 18, 2018 | By Thomas

More than 100 parts for U.S. space agency NASA’s deep-space capsule Orion will be made by 3D printers, using technology that experts say will eventually become key to efforts to send humans to Mars.

U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, 3D printing specialist Stratasys, and engineering firm PADT are teaming up to deliver next-generation 3D printed parts for NASA’s Orion deep-space spacecraft. They have developed the parts using new materials that can withstand the extreme temperatures and chemical exposure of deep space missions, Stratasys said on Tuesday. Key to the project are Stratasys advanced materials – including an ESD variant of the new Antero™ 800NA, a PEKK-based thermoplastic offering high performance mechanical, chemical, and thermal properties.

The Orion spacecraft leverages a variant of new Stratasys Antero 800NA to build an intricately-connected 3D printed docking hatch door.

Orion is part of NASA’s follow-up program to the now-retired space shuttles that will allow astronauts to travel beyond the International Space Station, which flies about 260 miles (420 km) above Earth. Orion’s next test flight, dubbed Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), will be the first integration mission with the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, where an un-crewed Orion will fly thousands of miles beyond the Moon during an approximately three week mission.

The following flight, EM-2, will also go near the Moon, but with astronauts on board, a first since 1972 and will enable NASA to prepare for increasingly complex missions in deep space. The mission will use more than 100 3D printed production parts on board.

The production-grade, thermoplastic 3D printed parts for NASA’s Orion vehicle are produced at the Additive Manufacturing Lab at Lockheed Martin in conjunction with PADT, which now employs the latest in Stratasys 3D printers and materials. Using advanced materials such as ULTEM 9085™ resin and the new Antero material incorporating critical electro-static dissipative (ESD) functionality – NASA could meet key requirements for 3D printed parts to perform in the extremes of deep space. Antero is ideally suited to meet NASA’s requirements for heat and chemical resistance, along with the ability to withstand high mechanical loads.

“In space, for instance, materials will build up a charge. If that was to shock the electronics on a space craft there could be significant damage,” Scott Sevcik, Vice President Manufacturing Solutions at Stratasys told Reuters.

The 3D printing technology can help make light-weight parts made of plastics more quickly and cheaply than traditional assembly lines that require major investments into equipment.

“But even more significant is that we have more freedom with the design... parts can look more organic, more skeletal,” Sevcik said.

“Working with PADT, Stratasys, and NASA has enabled us to achieve highly consistent builds that move beyond the realm of prototyping and into production,” said Brian Kaplun, Manager of Additive Manufacturing at Lockheed Martin Space. “We’re not just creating parts, we’re reshaping our production strategy to make spacecraft more affordable and faster to produce.”

Lockheed Martin said the use of 3D printing on the Orion project would also pay off at other parts of its business.

“We look to apply benefits across our programs - missile defense, satellites, planetary probes, especially as we create more and more common products,” said Brian Kaplun, additive manufacturing manager at Lockheed Martin Space.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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