Star Trek fans will recognise shades of the universal replicator in this: NASA has approved a 3D printer for use in microgravity aboard the International Space Station and will be delivering the first 3D printer to astronauts next year. The Made in Space 3D printer is fully enclosed in metal, with a glass window on the front to allow astronauts to see what’s being printed inside and has been designed to operate in near zero gravity. Among other things, it will be used to print spare parts for the ISS including replacement tools and small accessories like clips and buckles. The ability to print these types of parts will help NASA limit the amount of space taken up by these essentials in restocking flights up to the ISS which it has had to outsource to companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The Made in Space 3D printer has one more test to pass before NASA will take it up to the ISS (which has been rumoured to be on an August flight), but considering how well it has already done on the previous three sub-orbital tests everyone is expecting it to be the first 3D printer in space.