WALLOPS ISLAND – The International Space Station’s first 3D printer with its own recycling machine is on its way to the orbital laboratory aboard a spacecraft Northrop Grumman.
Cygnus spacecraft was launched early Saturday morning aboard an Antares rocket of 7,400 pounds delivering to help dozens of investigations and research projects carried out at the space station, NASA said in a press release.
The load includes Space Station’s first all-in-one 3D printer and recorder, known as “Refabricator,” NASA said. It will be able to take plastic materials and old 3D-printed parts on the space station and recycle them to a new “printer” of 3D printers that will allow astronauts to make new tools in space.
The technology will also “greatly reduce the need to continually launch major supplies of new materials and parts for repairs and maintenance,” NASA said. This would in turn reduce the cost of reviving the space station.
The first 3D-printed object made in space was made in 201
4, NASA said.
The spacecraft launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on East Shore of Virginia, and is expected to reach ISS and dock at 5:20 AM on Monday, NASA said.
The Cygnus craft is named SS John Young, after NASA’s longest serving astronaut, according to Northrop Grumman. Young was the master of NASA’s first shuttle mission and has been recognized as a pioneer in human spacecraft. He died in January.
This is the 10th cargo truck’s mission for Northrop Grumman, an important national security contractor for the United States, said the company.