NASA's Orion spacecraft, which is set to launch next year for a journey around the moon, will mark the first time that a deep-space craft has been built using 3-D-printed parts.
The space agency wants to conduct a new set of lunar missions, as well as exploration to other destinations including Mars. The Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) will send Orion, an un-crewed module, on a three-week voyage around the moon.
The Orion craft is set to use more than 100 3-D-printed parts jointly engineered by Lockheed Martin, Stratasys, and Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies. It will be the first time that 3-D parts have been certified for deep space use. Deep space, or outer space, represents the physical universe beyond Earth's atmosphere.
Dr. Phil Reeves, vice president at Stratasys Strategic Consulting, said Tuesday that, thanks to the technology, the cost and complexity of space-ready components is tumbling.
"Those 100 parts might replace 500 or 600 parts, as the printed technology can be used to create complex geometrical shapes," he said.
Reeves highlighted Orion's docking station as an example where a previously complex part will now consist of just six individual 3-D-printed components locked together.