The aerospace sector has seen several 3D printing-related milestones announced over the past month, ranging from a bouncing new space robot for asteroid exploration to the launch of a pioneering new NASA satellite into lunar orbit.
Two new developments have come to light from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, space technology design agency AI SpaceFactory and 3D-printed rocket maker Relativity Space. The former two unveiled their designs for NASA’s 3D-printed lunar outpost LINA, while Relativity Space signed a multi-launch agreement with space communications firm OneWeb to launch its satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO ) in 2025.
LINA Lunar Outpost
LINA’s design and testing is part of NASA’s REACT project to advance SpaceFactory AI technologies and materials created for the agency’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.
NASA is currently working on several projects to create lunar structures, including a couple with Texas-based construction company ICON to 3D print a Martian habitat that accurately recreates the conditions future astronauts will experience when they visit the surface of Mars, and to additively manufacture a lunar launch. lunar regolith cushion.
AI SpaceFactory’s original polymer, made with a Martian regolith simulant, has been modified to use real lunar regolith and will be tested in a NASA vacuum chamber designed to simulate environmental conditions on the moon.
The results of the test phase will provide additional information regarding the development of a sustainable 3D printing system capable of building large structures on the surface of the moon, which will eventually be used to print LINA.
NASA and AI SpaceFactory have now revealed designs for LINA, which will be built by autonomous robots at the moon’s south pole near Shackleton Crater. Quasi-continuous sunlight on the crater peaks should provide solar energy, while shadow inside the crater should allow water ice harvesting.
LINA is designed with 3D-printed “Romanesque” arches capable of withstanding high compressive loads with minimal material, which will be topped with 2.7 meters of lunar regolith to provide protection against radiation, micrometeorites, lunar seismic activity and extreme thermal variations.
According to AI Space Factory, the strength of its regolith polymer composite will support the geometry of the lunar outpost to create a durable, long-lasting structure that could support long-term habitation and potentially future travel to other planets. The first printing tests in the vacuum chamber should take place later this year.
“Our MARSHA Mars habitat prototype has proven that 3D printing with a polymer composite is a strong collusion for off-world habitation,” said David Malott, CEO of AI SpaceFactory. “The development of LINA and printing in an environment free of atmospheric pressures or weather systems advances this technology into a new context, with new, more precise variables.”
Relativity Space lands $1.2 billion launch contracts
Meanwhile, Relativity Space has brought the total backlog of launch contracts for its Terran R to $1.2 billion, after securing a multiple launch deal with OneWeb. The Terran R is the company’s first reusable, fully 3D-printed launch vehicle slated for launch in 2025, followed by the original Terran 1 which is expected to make its first orbital launch soon.
Relativity Space raised $650 million to ramp up production of the Terran R in June last year, which will be capable of launching more than 20,000 kg to LEO. The Terran R is a 216-foot-tall, two-stage rocket with a 16-foot diameter and a five-meter payload fairing that will be capable of delivering 20 times more payload to orbit than the Terran 1.
The multi-year launch services agreement with OneWeb will see the Terran R launch the communications company’s LEO Gen 2 satellites from 2025, adding capacity and new capabilities to its existing 648 satellites in orbit. The Terran R will launch OneWeb missions from Relativity Space’s site at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
“We are thrilled with this agreement with Relativity, which we have long admired as a true disruptor in the aerospace manufacturing industry,” said Massimiliano Ladovaz, CTO of OneWeb. “Relativity will add a new capability to our launch program in the future.”
Although the Terran R remains several years away from launch, OneWeb is the fifth customer Relativity Space has secured for the rocket’s services. The multiple launch deals resulted in a total backlog of over $1.2 billion for the company.
“We are honored to have been chosen by OneWeb to help launch their Gen 2 constellation,” said Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space. “They have an incredible team, technology and momentum as the world leader in satellite connectivity with hundreds of operational satellites already in orbit. It’s clear that more disruptive launch capability is needed in the market – Relativity is developing Terran R to meet this additional demand.
“We look forward to successfully planning, executing and launching these engagements with OneWeb.”
Subscribe to the 3D Printing Industry Bulletin for the latest additive manufacturing news. You can also stay connected by following us on Twitter and love us on Facebook.
Looking for a career in additive manufacturing? Visit 3D printing works for a selection of roles in the industry.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for the latest 3D printing video shorts, reviews and webinar replays.
Featured image shows a 3D printed rendering of the LINA lunar outpost. Image via AI SpaceFactory.