Beginning in 2022, NASA will place unmanned Orion spacecraft into lunar orbit, followed by crewed landings, construction of lunar habitats and supporting infrastructure, and ultimately, preparation for a visit to Mars.
Additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, is one of the technologies that enables such ambitious plans. “As with any complex endeavour, the more affordable you can make it, the greater the chance that you will ensure its completion, and the Moon is no different,” said James Horton, Aerospace Engineer and Mission Architect at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Metal AM plays a key role in achieving these goals.”
The US Air Force (USAF) has invested in a 3D printer capable of producing spare parts for its Strategic Automated Command Control System (SACCS).
When a supplier stopped manufacturing a red fault indicator lens cap to cover the lights on the SACCS system, the USAF purchased a 3D printer to manufacture its own replacement. By leveraging the technology to produce the first cap, the USAF recovered the cost of the printer and scanner and saved more than $4,000.
“This strategy is saving the Department of Defense thousands of dollars each time the part fails,” said Col. Brian Golden, National Airborne Operations Center and 595th Command and Control Group Commander.