3D Printing Reaches New Heights
Kyle Maxey posted on January 23, 2014 |
CubeSat pushes 3D printing to see if its materials can hold up in space.

3D printing, Space, Camera, windform, kentuckyLate in 2013, a joint venture between the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University (in conjunction with Kentucky Space) successfully launched a satellite known as the KySat-2 CubeSat. Travelling off world aboard an Orbital Science Minotaur rocket, the KySat-2 represented a monumental achievement for its designers and for the world of 3D printing.

As part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission, the Kentucky nanosatellite, along with a number of other similarly small orbiters, made their way to space in hope of furthering space based scientific achievement.

According to NASA, “[N]anosatellites are designed for a wide spectrum of space missions, including biology experiments, testing advanced propulsion and communications technologies.”

Within the nanosatellite ecosystem, “CubeSats are in a class of small research spacecraft called picosatellites. They have a size of approximately 4 inches, a volume of about 1 quart and weigh no more than 2.2 pounds.”

While the Ky-Sat-2 is certainly a small machine, its possible benefits are great.  Equipped with a number of 3D printed components, one of the cubesat’s latent goals was to see how high-performance 3D printed material could hold up in the vacuum of space.

“One of the subsystems, is the camera systems that acts as an attitude determination system called Stellar Gyro.  The 3d printed parts, were produced using the additive manufacturing technology Selective Laser Sintering and Windform XT 2.0 material.  The additive manufactured process 3d printed the mounting hardware for the camera system, extensions for the separation switches, clips for holding the antennas in their stowed position, and the mounting bracket for the on board batteries.  The process and the material were critical to achieve the right components for KySat-2.”

As the Ky-Sat-2 travels through space for the next year, it will gobble up images of the Earth below and inform researchers of the architecture required to create a functional satellite. In the near future it’s likely that 3D printed parts will continue to be integrated into space fairing systems, possibly pushing our extra-planetary vehicles to even greater heights.

Images and Video Courtesy of CRP & Kentucky Space

Recommended For You