NASA, the independent U.S. federal agency for civil space program, has awarded Redwire Corporation, a leader in space infrastructure for the next generation space economy, a $5.9 million contract to complete the design of FabLab, a new in-space manufacturing system. FabLab will be tested on the International Space Station (ISS) and will serve as a precursor for Artemis missions to the Moon and Mars.
The multi-material 3D printer will enable NASA crews in deep space to produce tools and components on demand using materials such as metal, plastic, ceramics, and electronics, allowing for a sustainable human presence on and around the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
In-Space Manufacturing Capability for space missions
Redwire was chosen in 2017 to prototype FabLab as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships programme. With this latest contract, the FabLab design will be fully matured and ready for spaceflight. A subsequent contract is expected to fund the construction of a FabLab unit and its testing aboard the ISS in low-Earth orbit (LEO).
“FabLab is a solution for some of the key logistics challenges with sustained human deep space exploration aboard the Lunar Gateway and on the Moon and Mars. Astronauts won’t need to pack their spacecraft with every tool or part they may need millions of miles from Earth. Make it, don’t take it.”– John Vellinger, Executive Vice President, Redwire Corporation
Testing FabLab on the ISS will be a critical step towards developing versions for use beyond LEO, such as NASA’s Gateway. Crews on the Moon, Mars, and in deep space will be able to manufacture critical assets such as tools, replacement parts, and printed circuit boards on demand using FabLab technology.
“Having an integrated capability for on-demand manufacturing and repair of components and systems during space missions will be integral for sustainable exploration missions. This is a rapidly-evolving, disruptive area in which NASA wants to continue working with industry and academia to develop these technologies through collaborative mechanisms such as this one.”– Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate programs
FabLab capitalises on Redwire’s expertise in in-space manufacturing. Over 200 tools, parts, and assets have been manufactured onboard the ISS by Redwire’s Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), the first permanent commercial manufacturing platform to operate in LEO. Since its inception in 2016, AMF’s versatility and durability have made it a dependable resource for both government and commercial customers. Redwire is expanding on this expertise by developing new capabilities that will leverage in-space manufacturing for unprecedented applications to meet future space exploration goals. The AMF is now compatible with over 30 polymers, including space-rated, high-performance thermoplastics.
About Redwire: Redwire Corporation is a pioneer in space infrastructure for the next generation space economy, with valuable intellectual property for solar power generation as well as in-space 3D printing and manufacturing. Redwire is uniquely positioned to assist its customers in solving the complex challenges of future space missions, thanks to decades of flight heritage combined with the agile and innovative culture of a commercial space platform.
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