This Saturday (November 2), a payload full of new science tech is headed to the International Space Station. One item is a plastic recycler to be used with the zero-gravity 3D printed on board. This is your #STEMnewsTues .
Northrop Grumman's robotic Cygnus cargo spacecraft will carry the machine from the California-based company Made In Space ( @madeinspaceinc ). The recycler will process waste plastic into feedstock for Made In Space's Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), the 3D printer that first launched to the ISS in 2014.
"The Recycler will complete the plastic sustainability life cycle on orbit by providing astronauts the ability to convert plastic packaging and trash as well as objects previously fabricated by the 3D printer into feedstock to be reused by the printer," Made In Space representatives wrote, adding, “The invention will improve the autonomy and sustainability of long-duration space missions, while also helping to reduce the cost and weight of payloads carried from Earth”.
This recycling 3D printer is just one of Made In Space’s creations advancing science and manufacturing. They have also manufactured the valuable optical fiber ZBLAN aboard the ISS using a microwave-size machine. This fiber is superior to traditional optic fiber and is difficult to make in Earth. NASA also recently awarded the company $73.7 million to launch Archinaut, a spacecraft with robotic arms and a 3D printer that can repair existing satellites and build structures in orbit. The Archinaut One mission could lift off as early as 2022!
This weekend’s launch will include other projects, including:
• a zero-g oven that will investigate how heat transfer and baking work in microgravity 🥧
•and a prototype vest designed to help shield astronauts from space radiation. 👚
Talk to your students about the exciting things going on in space! Ask them to brainstorm:
🔹what other innovations that might be helpful in space (like the recycling 3D printer)?
🔹 what challenges must be overcome to use an oven in space? Design one!
🔹what is difficult to do on Earth that may be easier to accomplish in space?