Toward a Multimaterial Fabrication Laboratory

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T. Prater et al. (2018), JBIS, 71, pp.27-35

Refcode: 2018.71.27
Keywords: Manufacturing in space, Additive manufacturing, International Space Station, 3D printing, Advanced manufacturing

Human space exploration has not ventured beyond low earth orbit and the moon. It is understood that a suite of manufacturing capabilities will be needed on long duration, long endurance missions to reduce logistics and enhance crew safety, enabling rapid response to unforseen situations. The International Space Station provides a unique opportunity for NASA and commercial partners to test out the manufacturing technologies needed on missions humanity will undertake in the post-ISS era. The in-space manufacturing (ISM) project at NASA and numerous commercial companies funded under this program are working to develop the manufacturing systems, skill sets, materials and techniques needed to support these future exploration missions. This paper provides an overview of technologies developed or in development under the helm of the ISM project that stand to change historical paradigms for human spaceflight and approaches to mission planning. Categories and activities on the ISM roadmap are also discussed. In the near term, these activities lead to the development of a multimaterial fabrication laboratory for the International Space Station, a unit capable of processing multiple materials and performing part inspection. In the long term, they represent a key foundational step on the path to reducing dependence on earth and making humanity a space-faring species.

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