By combining 3D printing and robotic assembly, SpiderFab technologies could drastically reduce the amount of money and energy required to send equipment into space by building the structures in orbit.
The technology, under development by Tethers Unlimited, Inc., will be able to construct booms, solar arrays, trusses and other components in orbit, which will allow them to be much, much larger than anything that can be built with existing technology. Currently, space-bound components must be sent into space inside a rocket shroud, which limits their size. In contrast, on-orbit fabrication can be carried out by sending the building material into space in a more compact form, such as spools of fiber, and they can be transported in a less expensive vehicle.
According to Rob Hoyt, TUI’s CEO and Chief Scientist: “Once on-orbit, the SpiderFab robotic fabrication systems will process the material to create extremely large structures that are optimized for the space environment.” The systems will be both repairable and re-configurable.
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