Posts Tagged ‘nasa’

27 September, 2014

Late last month, engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, completed testing the most complex rocket engine parts ever designed by the space agency and printed with additive manufacturing, or three-dimensional (3D) printing.

The highly complex part NASA engineers designed is a rocket engine injector, which is responsible for sending propellant into the engine, and which they crafted with design features that take advantage of 3D printing. As NASA officials describe the process, the intricate, digital design was loaded into the 3D printer’s computer. The 3D printer then built each part by outputting layers of metal powder and fusing the layers together with a laser in a process called selective laser melting.

By employing the additive manufacturing process, rocket designers were able to produce an injector with 40 individual spray elements. If manufactured traditionally, each individual spray element would need to be developed separately and then married with the core unit. Instead, the 3D printer enabled the engineers to save time and streamline the production process by printing the injector and all spray elements as a single component.

3D Rocketdyne RS25

The part was similar in size to injectors that power small rocket engines and similar in design to injectors for large engines, including the RS-25 engine from Aerojet Rocketdyne, with headquarters in Sacramento, California. The Rocketdyne RS-25 rocket engine, also referred to as the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), burns cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants. The SSME, having performed well on NASA’s Space Shuttle, is scheduled to be used on the much-anticipated Space Launch System (SLS), the Shuttle’s successor.

This geek is excited to see the amazing potential of this amazing technology being realized.

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29 June, 2014

NASA officials partnered with industry to launch the 3D Printing in Zero-G Experiment and Technology Demonstration, with the goal of validating the additive manufacturing capabilities in zero-gravity.

NASA scientists and Made In Space engineers at NASA Ames Research Park in California considered the International Space Station (ISS) to be the optimal place to initiate the journey of in-space manufacturing.

The Made In Space and NASA team envisions a future where space missions can be essentially self-sufficient and manufacture most of what they need in space, including consumables, common tools, replacements for lost or broken parts, and eventually even small, deployable satellites called CubeSats.

“A 3D printer extrudes streams of heated plastic, metal, or other material, building layer on top of layer to create three-dimensional objects,” explains Ken Cooper, B.A. in Mechanical Engineering, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Alabama. “Testing a 3D printer using relatively low-temperature plastic feedstock on the International Space Station is the first step towards establishing an on-demand machine shop in space, a critical enabling component for deep-space crewed missions and in-space manufacturing.”


“The 3D printing experiment with NASA is a step towards the future. The ability to 3D print parts and tools on-demand greatly increases the reliability and safety of space missions while also dropping the cost by orders of magnitude,” said Aaron Kemmer, chief executive officer of Made In Space, located at the NASA Ames Research Park in Mountain View, Calif. “The public has been hearing about what this 3D printing technology can do, but most people haven’t seen a genuine impact on their lives yet. Space is one of the key places where humanity will see the first impact of this incredible technology.”

The first printers at the ISS will begin by building test coupons, Kemmer describes, after which they will be used to output a broad range of parts, such as tools and science equipment.

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27 June, 2014

“Imagine an astronaut needing to make a life-or-death repair on the International Space Station. Rather than hoping that the necessary parts and tools are on the station already, what if the parts could be 3D printed when they needed them?” postulates Aaron Kemmer, chief executive officer of Made In Space, located at the NASA Ames Research Park in Mountain View, Calif.

All space missions today are completely dependent on Earth and the launch vehicles that send equipment to space. This fact is often considered a boon for broad range of aerospace vendors—including commercial space firms, prime contractors and subcontractors, and system- and component-level suppliers—but, at the same time, bad news for both taxpayers and awaiting astronauts in space. Moreover, the greater the distance a mission is from Earth and the longer its duration, the more difficult it is to resupply materials. Government and aerospace leaders are setting out to change all that.

mars misssion

“As NASA ventures further into space, whether redirecting an asteroid or sending humans to Mars, we’ll need transformative technology to reduce cargo weight and volume,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said during a recent tour of the agency’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. “In the future, perhaps astronauts will be able to print the tools or components they need while in space.”

In the summer of 2013, officials at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and space manufacturing company Made In Space began preparations to enable a future where parts can be built on-demand in space. And so, the 3D Printing in Zero-G Experiment was born.

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27 June, 2014

The military and aerospace (mil/aero) community is excited about the prospect of producing critical components with the aid of three-dimensional (3D) printers. Additive manufacturing is the name ascribed to the trend, one which has been employed in a variety of industry verticals and is now being adopted by mil/aero organizations. The technology and materials have matured, and are turning heads in the mil/aero community.

Additive manufacturing is likely to be a pervasive technology, taking hold throughout the mil/aero market. The proposed benefits are promising, and the relevant applications numerous. In fact, mil/aero organizations and officials are particularly interested in employing additive manufacturing in remote locales, including the farthest reaches of space.

Additive manufacturing might mean the end of astronauts stranded in space, awaiting a much-needed part or tool and organizations back on Earth scrambling to deliver the critical component or instrument to space as soon as humanly possible. Imagine if astronauts had the ability to 3D print on-demand, in little time and low cost (especially when compared to a cargo-delivery mission), whenever they encountered a problem and needed a part, tool, or other object. No need to imagine, in fact; that capability is now a reality.


Additive manufacturing and 3D printing are taking the mil/aero market by storm, and innovators on Earth are eager to deliver the capabilities to deployed soldiers, astronauts, and various other aerospace and defense entities—from schools to airlines and airports to aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facilities.

Will additive manufacturing make the practice of keeping large parts and components inventories a thing of the past? It’s a question this mil/aero geek ponders.

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11 April, 2014

NASA officials want you – to cast your vote. Now through 15 April 2014, aerospace geeks everywhere have the opportunity to vote on their favorite futuristic space suit design.

NASA’s next space suit, the Z-2, is the second and newest prototype in the space organization’s Z series of next-generation spacesuits. Its predecessor, the Z-1 suit, was named one of the best inventions of 2012 by Time Magazine. Now, all eyes are on NASA and its engineers to see what creative and innovative designs they’ve come up with for this new prototype suit.

“After the positive response to the Z-1 suit’s visual design we received, we wanted to take the opportunity to provide this new suit with an equally memorable appearance,” explains a spokesperson representing NASA’s space suit engineers. “We, the space suit engineers, have found ourselves with another exciting opportunity: the chance to make a suit with a look unlike any suit ever built before.”

Z-series space suit

NASA staff used modern hardware and software technologies in the design and development process. In fact, the Z-2 marks NASA’s first use of 3D scanning and 3D printing for spacesuit development, according to officials, who anticipate logging a number of other milestones with the Z-2 space suit. Among them are:

  • The first surface-specific planetary mobility suit to be tested in full vacuum
  • The most advanced use of impact resistant composite structures on a suit upper and lower torso system
  • The first integration of the suit-port concept with a hard upper-torso suit structure, and
  • The most conformal and re-sizeable hard upper-torso suit built to date.

This military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek urges everyone to vote. To do so, visit by 15 April 2014.

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28 October, 2013

Do you think you could do everything, and I mean everything, in bed for 70 days? If so, NASA wants to hear from you.

You cannot get up for any reason for 70 days. You can read, watch television, catch up on e-mail, or even play video games, but you cannot get out of bed—not to eat, shower, or even use the restroom. So, if you can keep your head at a steady six-degree decline for 70 days straight, NASA is willing to pony up $18,000 to the right applicant for their service.

NASA’s new aerospace study is meant to test conditions that an astronaut would experience in space, where there is no gravity, over an extended period. There will be two groups in the study. One group will be required to be on bed rest but will have daily resistance and aerobic exercise, while the other will be straight-up couch potatoes—but in bed rather than on the couch.

Throughout the duration of the study, data will be collected related to the subjects’ muscles, bones, heart, nutrition, and circulatory, immune, and nervous systems. This data will be analyzed and used to create long-term plans for astronauts to more easily acclimate from zero gravity in space to the gravity of Earth.

While in zero gravity, humans can experience many health issues because we have evolved to the gravity of Earth. Researchers expect to see loss of muscle strength, decreased bone density and respiratory capacity, as well as some constipation and urinary problems among subjects.

NASA isn’t looking for just any couch potato either. Volunteers must be nonsmokers who can pass a Modified Air Force Class III physical.

This military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek is all for a comfy bed, but isn’t sure he could pull off 70 days straight without exception. Do you think that you would be up to the challenge? Apply here.

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29 September, 2013

Military and aerospace (mil/aero) firms have weathered quite an economic storm, but industry analysts are now predicting growth in aerospace and defense spending.

This month, Research and Markets released its “Future of the US Defense Industry – Market Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2018” report, in which defense spending in the U.S. is predicted to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.93 percent through 2018. Expenditures on homeland security solutions, including surveillance equipment and patrol vessels, will also grow from $60.7 billion in 2013 to $65.3 billion in 2018, representing a CAGR of 2.15 percent.

Commercial aerospace has been a bright spot in the mil/aero market and it continues to be so.

Airbus this month unveiled its global market forecast for 2013 through 2032. Taking into account population growth, urbanization, emerging markets, and environmental impact, Airbus officials expect air traffic to grow at a rate of 4.7 percent annually. This growth will drive demand for more than 29,220 new passenger aircraft and freighters, having a value of roughly $4.4 trillion.

The Boeing Company released its annual Current Market Outlook (CMO) in June at the Paris Air Show. In the 2013 through 2032 forecast, both passenger traffic and cargo traffic were predicted to grow 5 percent annually. Boeing projects long-term demand for 35,280 new airplanes, valued at $4.8 trillion, over the next 20 years. In fact, the world fleet is expected to double over the next two decades.

Investment in space-related systems, in civil and military satellites and spacecraft, is another high spot. (This mil/aero geek apologizes for the pun and delves into space in the next installment).

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27 September, 2013

Are you a student pursuing or planning to pursue master’s or doctorate degree in a space technology discipline at an accredited U.S. university? If so, NASA officials want to hear from you.

This month, NASA announced that it will issue Space Technology Research Fellowships–research grants, worth as much as $68,000 per year. The grants will sponsor U.S. graduate student researchers who show significant potential to contribute to NASA’s strategic space technology objectives through their studies.

“To maintain our global leadership in space technology we must continue our investments in university research where some of the best future advancements in space technology reside,” explains Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology in Washington. “These investments will enable a new generation of our best and brightest graduate students to contribute meaningfully to the advancement of technology capabilities for future NASA missions, as well as the nation’s technology-based economy.”

NASA is now seeking applications from U.S. graduate students for the agency’s Space Technology Research Fellowships, which will coincide with the start of the 2014 fall term.

Sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, the fellowships are improving America’s technological competitiveness by providing the nation with a pipeline of innovative space technologies, according to officials. To date, NASA has awarded grants to 193 student researchers from 68 universities in 33 states and one U.S. territory.

This geek applauds NASA for investing in research and development through grants. The Space Technology Research Fellowships will act as a catalyst to space innovation encouraging our young people to reach for the stars.

Current and prospective students should act now: The deadline for submitting applications is 13 November 2013. Instructions on how to submit applications and additional information is online at

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28 August, 2013

An impressive $1.315 billion is earmarked for planetary science in the “Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2014,” released July 2013. The Appropriations Bill brings a welcome $100 million more than the U.S. President’s Budget to the field for Fiscal Year 2014.

The billions of dollars set aside for NASA will preserve “a NASA portfolio balanced among science, aeronautics, technology, and human space flight investments. Moreover, it will keep NASA in the forefront of innovation, inspiring private companies to build new crew transportation and spawning a new satellite servicing industry that can revive, refuel, and rejuvenate defunct communications satellites,” predicts Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee and Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS).

The increased budget will help to support two upcoming, high-profile space missions: Mars 2020 and what is likely to be a Europa Lander Mission, investigating Jupiter’s moon.

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will explore Mars as a potential habitat for life, search for signs of past life, and collect samples for possible future return to Earth. Perhaps of most importance to the military and aerospace (mil/aero) community, the mission represents a much-desired shot in the arm—to the tune of $100 million in contracts to private industry. (More on this opportunity in the next installment.)

“More than half of U.S. economic growth can be attributed to innovation” and “no agency represents the Nation’s scientific prowess like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA),” admits Sen. Mikulski. This military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek wholeheartedly agrees.

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27 August, 2013

The Appropriations Committee approved a Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) budget package last month, extending NASA’s planetary science budget by roughly $100 million above and beyond the $1.217 billion allotted in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget.

“We were able to restore almost $100 million in funding for planetary science, which will allow NASA to begin important work on the top priorities of the scientific community—a Mars 2020 rover that will advance the goal of a sample return, and a mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa,” describes Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). “Without continuing work on these missions, we will lose our talented engineers and scientists to other endeavors. And once we lose the talent pool that knows how to land rovers on other planets, it will be extremely difficult to reconstitute.”

The dream of space inspires schoolchildren to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), recognizes Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee and Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS).

“The dream of space also inspires brilliant scientists and engineers at the height of their careers to probe even deeper into the secrets of the universe and our origins,” Sen. Mikulski continues. “NASA scientists and their private sector and university partners are peering into the big bang and the origins of the universe, drilling into rocks on Mars, researching cures for salmonella on the International Space Station, building the vehicles that will let humans explore beyond low earth orbit, preparing to analyze samples from the Sun, and looking back to Earth to understand and protect our planet.”

This military and aerospace (mil/aero) geek is happy to see NASA and, more specifically, planetary science gain bipartisan support.

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