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Washington, Jly 14 (Canadian-Media/NASA): NASA has awarded a $73.7 million contract to Made In Space, Inc. of Mountain View, California, to demonstrate the ability of a small spacecraft, called Archinaut One, to manufacture and assemble spacecraft components in low-Earth orbit, NASA reports said.
NASA. Image credit: Twitter handle
The in-space robotic manufacturing and assembly technologies could be important for America’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.
The contract is the start of the second phase of a partnership established through NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. The public-private partnership combines NASA resources with an industry contribution of at least 25% of the program costs, shepherding the development of critical space technologies while also saving the agency, and American taxpayers, money.
Archinaut One is expected to launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from New Zealand no earlier than 2022. Once it’s positioned in low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft will 3D-print two beams that extend 32 feet (10 meters) out from each side of the spacecraft. 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.