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by Debra Werner —
SAN FRANCISCO — NASA awarded a $73.7 million contract to Made In Space to additively manufacture ten-meter beams onboard Archinaut One, a small satellite scheduled to launch in 2022.
“As manufacturing progresses, each beam will unfurl two solar arrays that generate as much as five times more power than traditional solar panels on spacecraft of similar size,” NASA said in a July 12 news release.
Archinaut One is scheduled to launch from New Zealand as early as 2022 on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket.
“In-space robotic manufacturing and assembly are unquestionable game-changers and fundamental capabilities for future space exploration,” Jim Reuter, NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate associate administrator, said in a statement. “By taking the lead in the development of this transformative technology, the United States will maintain its leadership in space exploration as we push forward with astronauts to the Moon and then on to Mars.”
The contract announced July 12 extends Archinaut work Made In Space began in 2016. Since then, Made In Space has continued to enhance its Archinaut technology and prove the 3D printed hardware it produces is durable enough to operate in space.
Made In Space’s Archinaut partners include Northrop Grumman, NASA Ames and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Technology like Archinaut has important applications for future space missions because it could lead to on-orbit construction of large communications antennas, space telescopes, power systems and reflectors, according to the NASA news release.
Through the Tipping Point program, NASA awards funding to companies working on technologies with both NASA and commercial space applications. Companies contribute at least 25 percent of the cost of these public private partnerships.