Jul 8, 2016 | By Benedict

Jupiter, the fifth planet from the sun, is far and away the largest in the Solar System. So much so, in fact, that the mass of the giant planet is actually two and a half times that of every other planet in the Solar System combined. No need to feel small, however, because NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit on Monday after almost five years of flight, giving Earth a closer-than-ever look at its big brother planet and potentially enabling scientists to answer some big questions about the formation of the Solar System. In honor of this historic achievement, here are three fantastic space-themed 3D printing projects to further whet your appetite for space exploration.

1. PiKon: a 3D printed, Raspberry Pi-powered astro-cam

Designed by Mark Wrigley of Sheffield’s Alternative Photonics and staff at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics, the incredible PiKon astro-cam consists of 3D printed components and a Raspberry Pi, and can be used to take photographs of outer space at a x160 magnification factor. The device can be mounted on a standard camera tripod for stability, and images captured on it can be transferred to a computer with the Pi’s micro-SD card or to a cloud-based service such as Dropbox. According to the Wigley, the PiKon is capable of producing 5-megapixel images of the night sky and costs just £100 to build.

PiKon began as a collaborative project between Wrigley and the University of Sheffield, specifically for the 2014 “Festival of the Mind”, which took place at the university in 2014. During the event, the idea received a lot of attention from both festival-goers and press, prompting Wrigley and co to consider marketing the product so that people at home could get their own PiKon. Last year, the team made that consideration a reality, turning the 3D printing project into a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Wrigley and his team raised over £6,000 in order to deliver pre-printed kits to enthusiastic backers.

While that crowdfunding campaign may be over, makers can still make their own Pi-powered telescope by downloading the STL files for the space gadget and sourcing the components listed on the same page.

2. M.A.R.S. (MADspace Advanced Robotics System): a 3D printed space exploration vehicle

The brainchild of Paul Wagener, Tom Geelen, Sedar Yildirim, and Guus van der Sluijs, all members of the MADspace hackerspace in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, M.A.R.S. is a “curiosity-inspired robotics platform” which takes the form of a 3D printed rover. The vehicle, designed to move across the surface of a planet “or other celestial body”, is—like the first project on this list—powered by a Raspberry Pi, but drives on six wheels, of which four can steer. M.A.R.S. is also equipped with four logitech c270 webcams—perfect for exploring new terrain and reporting on visual findings.

“Authentic” is a word which nicely summarizes the 3D printed M.A.R.S. rover, which actually uses the same rocker-bogie suspension system as the Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rover, and Mars Science Laboratory missions. Completed in 2014, the 3D printing project still represents a fun challenge for stargazing maker, with all STL files and components listed on the project’s Hackaday page.

The MADspace tinkerers behind the 3D printed M.A.R.S. vehicle embarked upon the project shorty after acquiring their first 3D printer.

3. Ultrascope: a 3D printed, laser-cut telescope

Described as a robot telescope and an Automated Robotic Observatory (ARO), Ultrascope was designed by Open Space Agency (OSA) to be a “useful citizen science tool for schools, makers, and amateur astronomers”. The open-source device, which uses a 3.5” mirror, can be controlled by a smartphone, and is able to conduct celestial photography and photometry. It has been optimized for lightcurve photometry, a form of measurement which generates useful data for many scientific applications, including planet finding and asteroid hunting.

“For the Ultrascope project we asked ourselves if it was possible to develop a kit-set telescope that would reduce the cost of pro-level astronomy by an order of magnitude,” OSA, an organization which seeks to promote the activity of “citizen space explorers”, explains on its website. The agency has developed Windows Mobile software for Ultrascope, which can be run on a smartphone with a high mega-pixel camera for best effects. OSA recommends the Nokia Lumia 1020 handset, which comes with a 41MP camera.

Released under the CERN Open Hardware Licence v1.2, Ultrascope can be revamped by makers able to spot improvements for the device. This approach ties in the community-based ethos of the entire project, which seeks to pool collected photometry data for research and informational purposes. To get involved in that “astropreneur” community, an estimated 2.2kg of PLA/ABS filament is required to print Ultrascope’s 3D printed parts, files for which can be downloaded through Wevolver.

3D printing and space travel have always gone hand in hand. Right now, the Additive Manufacturing Facility—a 3D printer built by Made in Space for the International Space Station—is printing tools and parts both for astronauts on the ISS and for third-party customers back on Earth who wish to have their products “made in space”. 3D printing is also being earmarked as an important tool for the potential habitation of Mars: last year, NASA ran the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, encouraging budding designers to come up with novels ways in which additive manufacturing technology could be used to create human bases on the Red Planet. More recently, the head of Russia’s Center for the Study of Natural Substances suggested that the former Soviet country could use 3D printing to build a base on the moon.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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