NASA 3D-Prints Rocket Boosters, Creates Real-Life 'Star Trek' Replicator [VIDEO]
Who would have thought a 3D printer could send you to space?
NASA tests of the first rocket engine with 3D printed components were a big success last week. The booster blazed to life and delivered about 20,000 lbs. of thrust.
The technology will make space travel cheaper and speedier by drastically reducing production costs for rocket parts, TG Daily reports.
"This successful test of a 3-D printed rocket injector brings NASA significantly closer to proving this innovative technology can be used to reduce the cost of flight hardware," Chris Singer, the director of the Engineering Directorate at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a statement.
The same 9.5-inch rocket injector would have taken more than a year to make using traditional methods, but the new printing process cuts that to four months and reduces costs by 70 percent, CNET reports.
NASA is also planning to employ 3D printing directly on board the International Space Station, blurring the line between science and science fiction.
The US space agency says 3D printing on the space station will function a bit like the replicator from Star Trek, creating certain supplies and parts without the need for delivery.
Instead, a machine can "print" out 3D objects layer by layer by laying down polymers and other materials.
The technology will ultimately help keep the 15-year-old orbiting research center in working order, the Telegraph reports.
"3D printing provides us the ability to do our own 'Star Trek' replication right there on the spot," NASA astronaut Timothy Creamer told the Telegraph, adding: "To help us replace things we've lost, replace things we've broken or maybe make things that we've thought of that would be useful."
The first 3D printer in space will arrive next year aboard a spacecraft on a resupply mission. It will make space missions more efficient -- and safer, NDTV reports.
"Imagine an astronaut needing to make a life-or-death repair on the International Space Station," said Aaron Kemmer, CEO of Made in Space on the company's website. "Rather than hoping that the necessary parts and tools are on the station already, what if the parts could be 3D printed when they needed them?"
See how rocket boosters are printed in a video below.