NASA funds in-space manufacturing demo

Antenna on Restore-L
An artist’s conception shows Maxar Technologies’ SPIDER robot assembling a communications antenna for the Restore-L spacecraft. (Maxar Technologies Illustration)

NASA has awarded a $142 million contract to Maxar Technologies for a demonstration of in-space construction technologies, including the robotic assembly of a communications antenna and the production of a structural beam.

The beam-manufacturing device, known as MakerSat, is being provided by Tethers Unlimited, a space technology company headquartered in Bothell, Wash.

Maxar, Tethers Unlimited and other partners — including the West Virginia Robotic Technology Center and NASA’s Langley Research Center — will have their hardware integrated onto NASA’s Restore-L spacecraft, which Maxar is getting ready for launch in the 2020s.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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