The first 3D printer aimed at creating resources for spacemen using regolith (space dust) has landed on the Cygnus space station. This printer will help pave the way for future endeavors in space by allowing people to study how we can recycle space dust into useable items. Dust from the Moon or Mars could be potentially incorporated into hardware or consumable products that would sustain human life on these planets.
The Redwire Regolith Print Mission
The RRP mission hardware leverages Redwire’s Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), a commercial 3D printer that has been operating on the ISS since 2016. AMF will be used for on-orbit operations during the RRP mission. For this mission, the traditional feedstock used by AMF will be replaced with a proprietary feedstock made of simulated lunar regolith, and polymer that mirrors actual lunar regolith. This mission also requires a custom-designed 3D print head and new print beds.
The main goal of this 3d printer is to help create an infrastructure that will be self sustainable. It’s one of the first steps to making life in space a reality. If we can get this to pan out then we can print simple and basic things we may need if something were to break, like a screw or a pin that’s needed to hold something in place.
If we can start creating things with the dust found on site in these missions it could also reduce the amount of payload astronauts have to unload. It could potentially lighten the mission and be a big relief to the people having to unpack very heavy equipment.
“The ultimate test is whether or not it can do its job,” Redwire’s Matthew Rydin told SYFY WIRE in an interview. “So we really need to look at what each of those needs to do and then test material for compressive strength, hardness, brittleness and tensile strength.”
When speaking of potential binders for the materials on space they’re seriously considering using astronaut urine. When you’re in a place with not many natural resources anything that can potentially be used is a major plus. They would use the urine to polymerize the regolith that would probably be a harsh and dry component otherwise.
Read more about this amazing printer by visiting Redwire Regolith’s website here.