The aerospace sector has several 3D Printing Milestones announced in the past month, ranging from a new bouncing space robot for asteroid exploration until the launch of a groundbreaking new NASA satellite in orbit around the moon.
Two new developments have since come to light: NASA Kennedy Space Centerspace technology design agency AI SpaceFactoryand 3D-printed rocket manufacturer space of relativity† The first two have unveiled their designs for NASAs 3D-printed lunar outpost LINA, as Relativity Space has signed a multi-launch agreement with a space communications company OneWeb to launch its satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) in 2025.
The LINA lunar outpost
LINA’s design and testing is part of NASA’s REACT project to advance the technologies and materials AI SpaceFactory has created for the agency. 3D Printed Habitat Challenge†
NASA is currently working on several projects to create lunar structures, including a few with a Texas construction company ICON until 3D print a martian habitat that accurately mimics the conditions future astronauts will experience when they visit the surface of Mars, and to additive manufacturing of a moon launch platform; made of lunar regolith.
AI SpaceFactory’s original polymer, made with a Mars regolith simulant, was modified to use real lunar regolith and will be tested in a NASA vacuum chamber designed to simulate environmental conditions on the moon.
The results of the test phase will provide more information on the development of a sustainable 3D printing system capable of building large structures on the lunar surface, which will eventually be used to print LINA.
NASA and AI SpaceFactory have now unveiled the designs for LINA, which will be built by autonomous robots at the moon’s south pole near Shackleton Crater. Near-continuous sunlight at the tops of the crater is predicted to provide solar energy, while shadows on the interior of the crater should allow for water ice harvesting.
LINA is designed with 3D printed ‘Romanesque’ arches that can withstand high compressive loads with minimal material, which are covered with 2.7 meters of lunar regolith to provide protection against radiation, micrometeorites, lunar seismicity and extreme thermal fluctuations.
According to AI Space Factory, the strength of its regolith polymer composite will support the geometry of the moon’s outpost to create a durable and long-lasting structure that could support long-term habitation and potentially future travel to other planets. The first test prints in the vacuum chamber are expected to take place later this year.
“Our Mars habitat prototype MARSHA proved that polymer composite 3D printing was a strong collusion for off-world habitation,” said David Malott, CEO of AI SpaceFactory. “Developing and printing LINA in an environment without atmospheric pressure or weather systems takes that technology through a new context, with new and more precise variables.”
Relativity Space secures $1.2 billion launch contracts
Meanwhile, Relativity Space has brought the total backlog of launch contracts for its Terran R to $1.2 billion, after signing a multi-launch deal with OneWeb. The Terran R is the company’s first reusable, fully 3D-printed launch vehicle, set to launch in 2025. original Terran 1 which is set for his first orbital launch imminent†
space of relativity Raised $650 Million to accelerate production of the Terran R in June last year, which will be able to launch more than 20,000 kg to LEO. The Terran R is a 216-foot high two-stage rocket with a 16-foot diameter and a five-meter payload fairing that will be capable of putting 20 times more payload into orbit than the Terran 1.
The multi-year launch services agreement with OneWeb sees the Terran R launch the communications company’s LEO Gen 2 satellites from 2025, adding capacity and new capabilities to the existing 648 satellites in orbit. The Terran R will launch OneWeb missions from Relativity Space’s location at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
“We are excited about this agreement with Relativity, which we have long admired as a true disruptor in the aerospace industry,” said Massimiliano Ladovaz, CTO of OneWeb. “Relativity will add new capacity to our launch program well into the future.”
Despite the Terran R being several years away from launch, OneWeb is the fifth customer to have secured Relativity Space for the rocket’s services. The multiple launch agreements have resulted in a total backlog of more than $1.2 billion for the company.
“We are honored to be chosen by OneWeb to help launch their Gen 2 constellation,” said Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space. “They have an incredible team, technology and momentum as a global leader in satellite connectivity with hundreds of operational satellites already in orbit. It is clear that more disruptive launch capability is needed in the market – Relativity is developing Terran R to address this additional to meet demand.
“We can’t wait to plan, execute and successfully launch these missions with OneWeb.”
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Featured image shows a view of the 3D printed LINA lunar outpost. Image via AI SpaceFactory.