Remember the first time found out you could 3D print something that you previously thought had to be made by hand? For me it was finding out you could 3D print models ships…it was an emotional moment because as a child I spend hundreds of hours on that….oh well that taught me patience. But what if we could print larger ships? Lets check out how that might work, and the companies making it a reality.
The Fun Part
June 1, 2034
Space Solutions Lagrange One Shipyard
326,054 kilometers above Earth
Hey, hand me that wrench will you? No not that one…gawd, what exactly do they teach in trade schools these days? Whatever, I’ll just teach you. It will be faster than that shitty six month program you went through, and it is sure as fuck a lot better.
First off, this whole 3D printing system is built around this nozzle here. If it is clogged nothing is going to work, so that is where any troubleshooting should start. In our case everything looks clean, although this nozzle has seen better days. I assume some fuck-tard on the graveyard shift has been hammering his head against this. We print fucking space ships up here, and somehow I still get sent the people who can’t graduate high school…
Think of this whole system as just a giant cake frosting tool. We checked the nozzle here, where the alloys clog all the time. Next are the lines feeding the liquid alloy to the nozzle. I’ve been here 4 years, and never seen them clog unless the main nozzle is. So you might as well just skip checking them. If something is wrong with the feeder lines they will just be spraying molten metal in your face…kinda hard to miss.
From there we have the heating elements and storage tanks. The tanks are like the feeder lines. If something is wrong, you have metal in your face. If that hasn’t happened, they are fine. But the heaters go out all the fucking time. I’m convinced corporate sends us used heating elements rather than new ones. If I were you, just replace them once a month at a minimum. That way you stay ahead of problems and avoid this down time. You could replace the nozzle around then too, but that shit is expensive, so we are audited on how often we replace that.
Lets just replace the heater here, and see if that clears things up.
—–Ten minutes later —–
Hey fuck face…next time you call me about the 3D printer not running, try checking to make sure the storage tanks actually have stuff in there. I’m fucking done here.
The Real Deal
3D Printing Space Ships
This month Relativity Space announced its first contract to deliver satellites into low earth orbit. Why is this being talked about here? That is a fair question because it seems like every other day a contract is being signed by some new rocket company. This is different because Relativity Space prints its rockets.
Relativity’s Terran 1 rocket, which features a flexible architecture, was fabricated using Relativity’s patented technology platform on its giant Stargate 3D printer, which features 18-foot-tall robotic arms that use lasers to melt metal wire and can help lower the part count of a typical rocket from 100,000 to just 1,000. On top of this, Relativity says they can print the rocket in less than 60 days. This is nothing short of revolutionary, as it has historically taken months if not years to make a single rocket. Even now it takes 71 days for SpaceX to refurbish its already used rockets.
Zero-G 3D Printing
I know I know, there is a difference between 3D printing rockets here on the ground, and doing that in space. But even now Relativity has its sights on 3D printing rockets elsewhere. Once it masters its automation process here on Earth, the company hopes to shrink its printers and ship them to Mars via rockets to see if they can create vehicles capable of launching from the Red Planet using raw metallic materials.
It is a short step from the designs and techniques Relativity is pioneering, to a company like Made in Space adapting them to their zero-G 3D printers. Made In Space has created the world’s first zero-G 3D printer, and in partnership with NASA has been testing facets of it since at least 2015.
One of its key projects is the Archinaut, “a technology platform that enables autonomous manufacture and assembly of spacecraft systems on orbit”. This would enable a wide range of in-space manufacturing and assembly capabilities, fundamentally changing how spacecraft are designed and built. This capability is also a virtual requirement in order to support key technologies like space based solar power, or space elevators.
You can’t Be Serious?
I can hear some of you claiming that my ~15 year timeline is a little aggressive for this. But consider that the cost of getting to space has dropped a 100 fold over the same time frame, and there are realistic projects underway to begin mining resources on the moon over the next 10 years. So, a five year lag between beginning resource extraction in orbit, and the capitalization of this by commercial companies to build factories up there isn’t unrealistic at all. Especially with 85% of the tech already being used here.
Next time we will check out one of the less fun, but equally likely part of life off Earth, protestors. It is a maxim of any political system that if ten people likes it, then there is at least five who will protest against it. Lets see what that looks like up on the moon.
Until then, check out some of our old stories, including Gaia’s Revenge, the disease that affects people who return to earth after being away; or learn about the inevitable need for a Space Guard to rescue people from themselves.