Nov 1, 2016 | By Benedict

Students at North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota are building a CubeSat satellite that will test the capabilities of a 5 x 5 x 8 cm 3D printer in space. The students believe the project could contribute to the long-term goal of 3D printing spacecraft in space.

CubeSats, miniature satellites created by scientists from across the globe, are being developed to carry out all kinds of scientific research, from analyzing the composition of the thermosphere to testing new broadcasting equipment. A large group of students from North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota are now attempting to develop a new use for CubeSats: testing the capabilities of a 3D printer orbiting aboard a satellite. While there is already a 3D printer in space, the Made in Space Additive Manufacturing Facility sits in the relative comfort of the International Space Station (ISS). The 3D printer on the Dakota students’ OpenOrbiter satellite, on the other hand, will be exposed to the conditions of Earth orbit and will receive no manual maintenance.

According to the 90-odd Dakota students and faculty behind the OpenOrbiter 3D printing experiment, the CubeSat could be launched to the ISS early next year, after which it would be released into Earth’s orbit. Interestingly, the two universities are each developing their own version of the OpenOrbiter, with the best components of each model making up the final satellite. The satellites also serve as backups for one another, with vibration and battery issues both potential banana skins for the project.

The 3D printer to be launched on the OpenOrbiter will measure around 5 x 5 x 8 cm, and will be used to determine how certain printing materials behave in microgravity and when exposed to the temperatures and radiation of low Earth orbit. If the universities discover that the 3D printer can successfully fabricate objects in such conditions, the findings could be invaluable for long-term projects such as the in-space fabrication of spacecraft and habitats. In addition to testing the 3D printer, the OpenOrbiter will also be used for other science and engineering experiments.

Initially, the university students and faculty hoped to build the 3D printing CubeSat at a cost of no more than $2,500. While the majority of the hardware has cost just over $1,000, the developers collectively decided to invest in a $4,000 radio to ensure that the satellite would provide good telemetry data even in the event of failure.

The OpenOrbiter is, according to its creators, the first satellite to be made in North Dakota.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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I.AM.Magic wrote at 11/2/2016 8:55:57 AM:

Why are they doing this again?

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