The first objects to be created in orbit using the upgraded 3-D printer that’s on its way to the International Space Station are likely to be strictly utilitarian, but there’s fun stuff to come.
The Additive Manufacturing Facility, a 3-D printer designed for use in zero-G, was launched on Tuesday night along with more than 7,500 pounds’ worth of additional cargo aboard Orbital ATK’s uncrewed Cygnus cargo capsule. The bus-sized spacecraft, known as the S.S. Rick Husband, is due to rendezvous with the space station on Saturday.
This is actually the second 3-D printer to go into outer space. The first one was an experiment, built by a commercial venture called Made In Space.
This time around, Made In Space partnered with Lowe’s Innovation Labs to produce a more capable 3-D printer. The main idea is to provide a way to fabricate plastic tools and spare parts by following computerized instructions that are sent up from the ground.