Planetary Resources – an asteroid-mining company that intends to expand Earth’s natural resource base – used metal powder from a space rock to 3D-print an object.
The object is 3.4 inches (8.7 cm) wide, one inch (2.5 cm) tall, and it weighs about 8.8 ounces (250 grams). On Thursday (Jan. 7), Planetary Resources representatives wrote in a blog post that this object is the first to ever be 3D-printed with material collected from outer space.
The print materials come from an asteroid (or meteorite) impact in Campo Del Cielo – an area that is 620 miles (1,000 km) northwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. They are made of nickel, iron, and cobalt, which are similar to materials in refinery-grade steel.
To build the intricate geometric object, Planetary Resources worked with another company called 3D Systems. They unveiled the object at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), an internationally renowned technology and electronics trade show held each year at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Other entities, apart from Planetary Resources, also believe that 3D printing will play an important role in space exploration. For instance, the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) stated that 3D printing may improve the exploration of our solar system. Voyaging Spaceships would become less dependent on planet Earth for various supplies, NASA officials said.
Made In Space – a company which specialises in manufacturing 3D printers for use in microgravity – and NASA teamed up to launch a 3D printer to the International Space Station. Until now, the results appear to be very promising, according to Made In Space representatives and NASA officials.
Planetary Resources wants to begin the asteroid-mining process by extracting water, which will be split into oxygen and hydrogen (both of which are essential components in rocket fuel). Within the next ten years – provided that all goes according to plan – the company may sell propellant from ‘gas stations’ in space, which will enable spacecrafts to fill their tanks on the go.
The next goal for Planetary Resources would be to mine other useful materials from asteroids, such as platinum. Deep Space Industries (DSI), another asteroid-mining company, has similar goals. DSI aims to make materials extracted from asteroids, commercially available in the 2020s.
A test satellite built by Planetary Resource, called Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R), was launched on 17 April 2015 to orbit Earth, and then it was deployed on July 16, 2015 from the International Space Station.
Image Source: wpengine