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A 3D printer intended for installation on ISS in 2014 has successfully proven it can work in weightlessness.
Three prototype versions of space manufacturing startup Made in Space’s 3D printer showed their stuff during four airplane flights that achieved brief periods of microgravity via parabolic maneuvers, company officials announced today (June 19).
Then there’s this:
“The 3D printer we’re developing for the ISS is all about enabling astronauts today to be less dependent on Earth,” Noah Paul-Gin, Made in Space’s microgravity experiment lead, said in a statement. “The version that will arrive on the ISS next year has the capability of building an estimated 30 percent of the spare parts on the station, as well as various objects such as specialty tools and experiment upgrades.” [emphasis mine]
If this claim is true, this printer will do a lot to make interplanetary space travel far more likely. It will mean that travelers far from home will be able to manufacture the spare parts they need, on demand, should something break. This will save a lot of weight, compared to carrying pre-made spare parts.