NASA’s challenge for students: Design 3D printed expandable objects

NASA has launched a new challenge for students to design an expandable object for astronauts that can be printed using the newest 3D printer onboard the International Space Station (ISS).

To celebrate the arrival of the first expandable habitat to the ISS and the launch of the first commercial 3D printer to space, the ASME Foundation and NASA have issued a brand new Future Engineers challenge.

The ‘Think Outside the Box’ challenge asks students to design an object for astronauts that can be printed within the bounds of the newest 3D printer on the space station (10cm x 10cm x 14 cm), but can be assembled or expanded to become larger than that box, NASA said.

In space exploration, scientists and engineers often strive to make more from less. Smaller rocket payloads are needed to save cargo space and fuel, while sustainable technologies are needed to reduce, reuse and recycle what is brought to space.

NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division pioneers new approaches for rapidly developing prototype systems, demonstrating key capabilities, and validating operational concepts for future human missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

Two demonstrations of such pioneering space technologies include the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) and Made In Space’s Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF).

BEAM is a module made up of layers of fabric that will be expanding after it is installed. It is designed to test and validate expandable habitat technology, paving the way for future habitats on deep space missions.

AMF is a permanent, commercial manufacturing facility, offering entities conducting research on the space station the opportunity to purchase necessary hardware in space instead of launching it, NASA said.

Like its predecessor, the AMF 3D printer will also provide research that advances the long-term goal of developing off-planet manufacturing capabilities for destinations like the Moon or Mars.

The ‘Think Outside the Box’ challenge offers an exciting lineup of prizes. The junior and teen winners will receive a trip to Las Vegas for a VIP tour of Bigelow Aerospace and the finalists will win an expedition-worthy inflatable tent.

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