On May 26, 2020, Antarctic Bear learned from foreign media that the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) used 3D printing technology to produce the mechanical structure of an ultraviolet telescope that was recently sent to the International Space Station (ISS).
In the next three years, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) will use the 3D printed Mini-EUSO telescope to analyze the ultraviolet radiation of the International Space Station. The purpose of the project is to better understand cosmic rays and lay the technical foundation for future space station missions.
Marco Ricci, principal investigator of Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati INFN and project manager of INFN EUSO SPB2, said: “The use of Stratasys FDM 3D printing technology in the production process of the entire Mini-EUSO mechanical structure allows us to reduce the overall cost of the project.”
“This is an incredible result for us, and I have to say that I never expected 3D printing technology to accomplish this.”
3D printed space telescope
The space telescope was sent to the International Space Station in order to draw a high-resolution map of the Earth in the ultraviolet range (300-400 nanometers). In order to successfully complete this task, the device needs to be able to withstand the mechanical stress and vibration of the Soyuz rocket launched into space.
Using Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc 3D printer and ULTEM 9085 materials, the INFN team was able to create structures that met the stringent aerospace and international space station certification requirements. It turns out that the mechanical frame of the resulting telescope is lighter than the aluminum version, and the insulation of the internal current is better than its predecessor.
Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati (LNF) has several Stratasys FDM machines at its Italian base and recently installed PolyJet equipment. According to Ricci, LNF researchers use this technology to reduce costs by a factor of 10 and development time by about a year.
Because the time resolution of Mini-EUSO is as high as 2.5 us, it can detect various ultraviolet phenomena in the earth’s atmosphere. After successfully installed on the low-orbit Russian Zvezda module of the International Space Station, the data has now been sent back to Earth for analysis.
Ricci added: “We are now analyzing the first batch of data recorded by the Mini-EUSO and the results are promising. From a researcher’s point of view, I am very proud of the way this project is implemented and take the results I am very excited. For me, it is now clear that 3D printing can make a significant contribution to the future success of scientific research and technological progress. “
Rapid Prototyping Manufacturing on the International Space Station
3D printing technology has been used in different ways to optimize operations on the International Space Station and to promote the achievement of its research goals.
California-based outer space manufacturer Made In Space (MIS) won the NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract in May 2018 to develop its Vulcan Hybrid 3D printer. The system is compatible with more than 30 different materials, covering polymers and metals, and can produce durable, high-precision components on the track.
In October 2019, MIS and Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem created a 3D printed plastic recycling device for the International Space Station. The ‘Braskem Recycler’ can increase the sustainability of the International Space Station’s manufacturing capabilities and reduce the number of replenishment missions from the Earth.
Nanodimension, an Israeli 3D printer manufacturer, received funding approval from the Israel Innovation Authority in May 2019 to develop a radio frequency (RF) space system for the International Space Station. The project is in cooperation with the Florida communications company Harris Corporation, using its ground satellite tracking station to contact the 3D printed radio frequency system.
Compiled from: 3dprintingindustry