NASA has awarded a USD73.7 M contract to Made In Space, Inc. of Mountain View, California, to demonstrate the ability of a small spacecraft, called Archinaut One, to manufacture and assemble spacecraft components in low-Earth orbit.
Archinaut One is expected to launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from New Zealand no earlier than 2022. Once it is positioned in low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft will 3D-print two beams that extend 32 ft (10 m) out from each side of the spacecraft. As manufacturing progresses, each beam will unfurl two solar arrays that generate as much as five times more power than traditional solar panels on spacecraft of similar size.
Made In Space began working on Archinaut as a ground demonstration in 2016 and successfully 3D-printed structural beams in a unique NASA facility that mimics the conditions of space.
The Archinaut team includes Made In Space, Northrop Grumman of Falls Church, Virginia, Ames, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.