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posted 04 November 2016 at 18:21:16

NASA is poised to blast the world's first 3D printed satellite into space on March 16, 2017 – a full year ahead of schedule.

 Researchers from the Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho, USA, began developing the tiny 10 x 10 x 11.35cm CubeSat satellite two and a half years ago. Progress was so rapid that NASA changed its launch schedules in order to send the satellite, named MakerSat, into space next spring, at the same time as its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite, which provides weather alerts and warnings. The cube-shaped MakerSat will orbit the Earth at a speed of 17,000 miles per hour, completing a full orbit every 100 minutes for the next ten years.

This latest 3D printed project is a crucial step in NASA's programme to better understand how 3D printing and 3D printed tools could play a crucial role in space exploration in the future. Its mission objectives are to demonstrate space additive manufacturing and assembly on the International Space Station; multi-user, multi-project satellite architecture; to determine how and at what speed 3D printed materials such as ABS, ULTEM and nylon break down and decay in space; and to capture images of Earth.

The ultimate goal is to 3D print a structure or spacecraft in space. 3D printing really is at the forefront in the race to explore and conquer new frontiers.

Images: © NASA  (top); Northwest Nazarene University