This paper provides an overview of the capability of a 3D printer to successfully operate in-space to create structures and equipment useful in the field of scientific remote sensing. Applications of this printer involve oceanography, weather tracking, as well as space exploration sensing. The design for the 3D printer includes a parabolic array to collect and focus thermal energy. This thermal energy then be used to heat the extrusion head, allowing for the successful extrusion of the print material. Print material can range from plastics to metals, with the hope of being able to extrude aluminum for its low-mass structural integrity and its conductive properties. The printer will be able to print structures as well as electrical components. The current process of creating and launching a remote sensor into space is constrained by many factors such as gravity on earth, the forces of launch, the size of the launch vehicle, and the number of available launches. The design intent of the in-space 3D printer is to ease or eliminate these constraints, making space-based scientific remote sensors a more readily available resource.
Large spacecraft missions have both technical and financial needs. Technical needs drive the inclusion of numerous subsystems, which must be configured or deployed. Financial needs, for many spacecraft, are filled through generating public support, which is enhanced by being able to show the spacecraft in operation. This paper presents DeSCJOB, a small satellite that is deployed from a larger spacecraft. It launches from the parent spacecraft, captures images of whatever is desired (moving around the larger spacecraft, if desired) and then retracts back to its docking point automatically. Its utility for operational and public relations imaging is discussed.
This paper describes how a solar power source can enable in-space 3D printing without requiring conversion to electric power and back. A design for an in-space 3D printer is presented, with a particular focus on the power generation system. Then, key benefits are presented and evaluated. Specifically, the approach facilitates the design of a spacecraft that can be built, launched, and operated at very low cost levels. The proposed approach also facilitates easy configuration of the amount of energy that is supplied. Finally, it facilitates easier disposal by removing the heavy metals and radioactive materials required for a nuclear-power solution.
This paper provides an overview of an aerial 3D printing technology, its development and its testing. This technology is potentially useful in its own right. In addition, this work advances the development of a related in-space 3D printing technology. A series of aerial 3D printing test missions, used to test the aerial printing technology, are discussed. Through completing these test missions, the design for an in-space 3D printer may be advanced. The current design for the in-space 3D printer involves focusing thermal energy to heat an extrusion head and allow for the extrusion of molten print material. Plastics can be used as well as composites including metal, allowing for the extrusion of conductive material. A variety of experiments will be used to test this initial 3D printer design. High altitude balloons will be used to test the effects of microgravity on 3D printing, as well as parabolic flight tests. Zero pressure balloons can be used to test the effect of long 3D printing missions subjected to low temperatures. Vacuum chambers will be used to test 3D printing in a vacuum environment. The results will be used to adapt a current prototype of an in-space 3D printer. Then, a small scale prototype can be sent into low-Earth orbit as a 3-U cube satellite. With the ability to 3D print in space demonstrated, future missions can launch production hardware through which the sustainability and durability of structures in space will be greatly improved.
This paper evaluates use of solar flux concentrator systems with photovoltaic cells, it provides analysis on overall economic feasibility based on cost/benefit considerations. Properties evaluated include launch volume/mass, efficiency once in a functioning configuration and service life. Production time will also be discussed considering research on existing technology to expedite integration. Solar energy is primarily harvested via solar panels. With the utilization of a large mirrored dish, solar energy can be concentrated to maximize the efficiency of photovoltaic systems form a cost/benefit standpoint. The design concepts for these systems include fully rigid, tensioned over frame, and inflatable approaches. The efficiency of such systems will be discussed. Pre-existing systems, such as the photovoltaic blanket arrays on the international space station, will be considered. Areas of consideration include cost/output ratio, the efficiency of the array, and the system’s service life. Prior work on ridged, tensioned, and inflatable mirrored systems will be presented.
The power usage of CubeSat's onboard systems has increased with the complexity of the systems included. This paper presents a deployment system design which creates a plane of solar panels to collect energy. This allows more panels to be in direct normal sunlight at any given point (in conjunction with the onboard attitude determination and control system), facilitating increased power generation. The deployable system is comprised of a printed circuit board (holding the solar cells) which is attached to an aluminum hinge. The efficacy of this approach for power generation and its simplicity, as compared to other prospective approaches, are assessed herein.
This paper presents a space mission enablement and cost reduction technology: in-space 3D printing. Using in-space 3D printing, spacecraft can be lighter, require less launch volume and be designed solely for orbital operations. The proposed technology, which supports various thermoplastics and prospectively metals, is presented in detail. Key subsystems such as the energy collection system, the melting unit, and the printing unit are explained.
A device capable of creating tethers for use with spacecraft that are made from a diverse material palette could serve many functions. These functions include supporting applications such as data transfer, power generation, and resource collection. Applications that are currently being considered include use in a system for orientation, data transfer, and power delivery and use as part of a free-moving camera system which would be used in proximity to a spacecraft for capturing images and video for promotional and preforming diagnostic and “self-check” operations. Materials that have been considered for use in such a tethering device have different physical attributes in order to facilitate supporting the widest possible degree of applications for use in scientific, remote sensing, power generation, and electromagnetic applications methods for the parent spacecraft. Physical properties that have been considered include: rigidity, conductivity, heat dissipation, and opacity. The proposed dynamic tethering system would be driven by 3D printing technologies. This prospective application of 3D printing remains relatively unexplored. This provides great opportunities for knowledge expansion and the development of dynamic tethers for use capturing video footage and pictures, and for other scientific endeavors.
Outer space has the potential to become the battlefield of the 21st century. If this occurs, the United States will need to invest heavily into research and development regarding space assets, construction approaches, and anti-satellite technologies in order to ensure the requisite level of offensive and deterrent capabilities exist. One challenge that the U.S. faces is the expense of inserting satellites into orbit. With an in-space 3D printer, engineers would not need to incur the design and construction costs for developing a satellite that can survive the launch into orbit. Instead, they could just create the best design for their application and the in-space 3D printer could print and deploy it in orbit. This paper considers the foregoing and other uses for a 3D printer in space that advance national security.
This paper considers the utility of space-based 3D printing for homeland security applications, with needs ranging from the collection of data to facilitate the detection of occurrences ranging from prospective acts of terrorism, to invasion, to natural disasters. This paper presents and evaluates multiple prospective homeland security applications for an in-space 3D printing technology. The technology’s efficacy for the fabrication, refurbishment and repair of orbital craft on-demand as well as its utility as part of a mothership for a sensor net constellation are considered.