In-Space Manufacturing: The Gateway to the High Frontier
and an Enabling Technology for Human Space Exploration
In-space manufacturing (ISM) promises to revolutionize space systems engineering by reducing cost, improving performance, and enabling entirely new capabilities as a result of relaxing launch-related design constraints. ISM has potential benefits ranging from fabrication of extremely large space structures, on-demand spare parts production to reduce logistics demand for long-duration crewed missions, and utilization of planetary resources for fabrication of components in deep space. A review of the history of ISM serves to highlight the broad range of components sought to be produced by ISM and the variety of manufacturing processes used to produce them, as well as the achieved success, or shortcomings, of historical ISM efforts. The current state of ongoing ISM activities is then presented, with emphasis on activities led by the Marshall Space Flight Center, which include in-house efforts as well as public-private partnerships through Small Business Innovation Research (SBIRs), Tipping Point Solicitations, and the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnership – 2 (NextSTEP-2) program. Current research in academia and industry regarding the development of ISM technologies will also be discussed. In so doing, the application areas used to describe the trade space of potential ISM concepts will be presented, as well as the range of manufacturing processes potentially suitable for ISM considering the unique space environment’s impact on typical manufacturing processes. Lastly, an interactive session will enable attendees to express their ideas, insights, and potential use cases for ISM. This session will evolve into a road mapping effort whereby attendees chart out the capabilities needed for ISM systems relevant to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop community.
Tracie Prater is an aerospace engineer in the Materials and Processes Laboratory at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, where she is currently supports technical integration activities for the in-space manufacturing (ISM) project. Using the International Space Station as a testbed, ISM is responsible for developing the manufacturing capabilities needed to produce parts on demand during long duration, crewed space exploration missions. She also serves as a subject matter expert for NASA’s Centennial Challenge on 3D Printing of Habitats, a public competition for additive manufacturing of structural habitats using recyclable materials and in situ resources (www.bradley.edu/challenge). She has a PhD in mechanical engineering from Vanderbilt University.
Matthew T. Moraguez is a member of the MIT Strategic Engineering Research Group (MIT Strategic Engineering Research Group), and a Ph.D. Candidate in Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT. Matt has a M.S. inAeronautics and Astronautics from MIT (2018) and aB.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida (2016).