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Sat Dec 20, 2014, 08:30 AM

NASA Just Emailed A Wrench To The International Space Station

For the first time ever, hardware designed on the ground has been emailed to space to meet the needs of an astronaut. From a computer in California, Mike Chen of Made In Space and colleagues just 3D-printed a ratcheting socket wrench on the International Space Station. “We had overheard ISS Commander Barry Wilmore (who goes by “Butch”) mention over the radio that he needed one,” Chen writes in Medium this week. So they designed one and sent it up.

“The socket wrench we just manufactured is the first object we designed on the ground and sent digitally to space, on the fly,” he adds. It’s a lot faster to send data wirelessly on demand than to wait for a physical object to arrive via rockets, which can take months or even years.

The team started by designing the tool on a computer, then converting it into a 3D-printer-ready format. That’s then sent to NASA, which transmits the wrench to the space station. Once the code is received by the 3D printer, the wrench is manufactured: Plastic filament is heated and extruded layer by layer. The ISS tweeted this photo earlier this week, and you can see more pictures of the very cool wrench-printing process here.

Located on the campus of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Made In Space built the first 3D printer for microgravity, and it was launched to the ISS in September. Within a month, the astronauts 3D-printed their first object: a replacement faceplate for the printer’s casing (pictured below).


http://www.iflscience.com/space/how-nasa-emailed-wrench-space

Amazing!

8 replies, 1489 views

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Reply NASA Just Emailed A Wrench To The International Space Station (Original post)
MerryBlooms Dec 2014 OP
Cooley Hurd Dec 2014 #1
hobbit709 Dec 2014 #2
jimlup Dec 2014 #5
lastlib Dec 2014 #6
BumRushDaShow Dec 2014 #7
Fortinbras Armstrong Dec 2014 #3
Cooley Hurd Dec 2014 #4
C_eh_N_eh_D_eh Dec 2014 #8

Response to MerryBlooms (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 09:01 AM

1. Man, if only they had such a thing on Apollo 13...

 

re: The CO2 scrubber that was Jury rigged...

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Reply #1)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 09:08 AM

2. Duct Tape In Space!

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Response to hobbit709 (Reply #2)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 09:47 AM

5. Heck maybe they could have just emailed them a new O2 tank

But I guess the fuel cells were beyond repair at that point and the other tank was leaking and stuff so yeah I guess the CO2 scrubber...

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Response to jimlup (Reply #5)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 10:03 AM

6. (how would they get the O2 to put in it??)



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Response to lastlib (Reply #6)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 10:13 AM

7. Old-fashioned chemistry - Electrolysis



They would need some sort of electricity to generate a current through the salt/water to initiate the reaction that generates the 2 gasses (and I understand the batts on vehicle were iffy but still). If solar panels had been perfected then, that would have helped.

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Reply #1)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 09:20 AM

3. My favorite bit from the movie Apollo 13

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Response to Fortinbras Armstrong (Reply #3)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 09:25 AM

4. mine too!

 

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Response to MerryBlooms (Original post)

Sat Dec 20, 2014, 10:43 AM

8. This is an awesome bit of progress.

If this can prevent a disaster due to the astronauts needing four spares of a particular part when they only brought three, it'll make missions a lot easier, both in planning and execution.

3-D printing is still in its infancy, of course. It can't make electronic components, and even some of the plastic parts on the ISS need to be a lot more durable than the thermal stuff a printer uses. Plus they'd still need to ship over tons of plastic for raw material. But in an environment like that, where even the most basic resupply mission is a hugely expensive and risky affair, every little bit helps.

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