Last summer, NASA’s 25th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-25) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) contained more than 2,000 kilograms of food and equipment for the crew. Indeed, 3D printed parts made by Formlabs, the leader in 3D printing were also on board the “Dragon” resupply capsule.
Here are all the details on this unusual cargo, taken from the official press release:
Among the pieces of equipment, flight CRS-25 notably carried plated samples printed with a Form 3 stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer.
Using Alpha Space’s Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE-16) test platform, samples will be exposed to the space station’s external environment and then returned to Earth for other tests.
In a recent publication, NASA outlines the goals of this experiment as well as how 3D printing can impact the effectiveness of the project. The goal is to send the parts that will allow the installation of miniature lasers within the ISS, opening the possibility of analyzing small rock samples. This laser uses a technique to measure the composition of a sample by separating the molecules of the rock into atoms and stimulating them with a UV laser. However, the laser needs a snug, custom package, and that’s where 3D printing comes in.