NASA’s Newest Robot Prepares to Build Largest Composite Rocket Parts Ever Made

KS Technology

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, just received a very sophisticated tape dispenser. The latest addition to Marshall’s Composites Technology Center is one of the largest composites manufacturing robots created in America. It will help NASA build the biggest, lightweight composite parts ever made for space vehicles.

The robot’s head has 16 spools of composite fiber tape that it releases in precise patterns to make both small and large objects. As the fibers are released they are heated so that they adhere to various surfaces. The head can be changed out for different projects. Credits: NASA/MSFC/Fred Deaton
The robot’s head has 16 spools of composite fiber tape that it releases in precise patterns to make both small and large objects. As the fibers are released they are heated so that they adhere to various surfaces. The head can be changed out for different projects. Credits: NASA/MSFC/Fred Deaton

According to NASA, composites are the materials of the future for aerospace because they are lighter and cheaper than traditional materials, like metals.

“Marshall has been investing in composites for a long time,” said Preston Jones, deputy director of Marshall’s Engineering Directorate. “This addition to Marshall’s Composites Technology Center provides modern technology to develop low-cost and high-speed manufacturing processes for making large composite rocket structures. We will build and test these structures to determine if they are a good fit for space vehicles that will carry humans on exploration missions to Mars and other places.”

Lightweight composites have the potential to increase the amount of payload that can be carried by a rocket – the lighter the rocket, the more crew, food, equipment, and science instruments the rocket can ferry into space. NASA is doing research to determine whether composites can be part of their new Space Launch System and other exploration spacecraft, such as rovers and landers.

In order to make large composite structures, the robot travels down a 40-foot-long track, placing carbon fibers onto a tooling surface in precise patterns. The head at the end of its 21-foot robot arm holds up to 16 spools of carbon fibers that are as thin as human hairs! The robot will build structures larger than 26 feet (8 meters)  in diameter, which are some of the largest composite structures ever built for space.

Click the video below to see the new robotic system in action. 🚀

NASA’s Newest Robot Prepares to Build Largest Composite Rocket Parts Ever Made

Meet the Astronauts NASA Just Picked to Return Space Launches to U.S. Soil

Krystian Science SpaceJuly is shaping up to be a great month for America. This year we celebrated our independence, U.S.A. won the Women’s World Cup, the U.S. is about to become the first nation to visit Pluto on the 14th, and now, NASA has announced the four astronauts that will usher space travel back to American soil.

Clockwise from top left: Douglas G. Hurley, Sunita L. Williams, Eric A. Boe, and Robert L. Behnken. PHOTOGRAPHER:  BILL STAFFORD/NASA
Clockwise from top left: Douglas G. Hurley, Sunita L. Williams, Eric A. Boe, and Robert L. Behnken.
PHOTOGRAPHER: BILL STAFFORD/NASA

I’d like to introduce you to Robert Behnken, Sunita Williams, Eric Boe, and Douglas Hurley. These four astronauts will begin training now with the hopes of launching in 2017.

These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail, a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden in a blog post.

Bolden explained that sending commercial flights to space is “all part of our ambitious plan to return space launches to U.S. soil, create good-paying American jobs and advance our goal of sending humans farther into the solar system than ever before.

Since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russia to take astronauts to the International Space Station, which costs upwards of $76 million dollars a seat.

Instead, NASA has over 350 American companies working across 36 states on their commercial crew initiative. These four brave men and women will fly on commercially owned and operated spacecraft, built by contractors, not NASA – which will take the cost from $76 million to $58 million per astronaut. This means that every dollar the U.S. invests in commercial crew is a dollar we invest in ourselves, not the Russian economy.

Last year NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts to the ISS. NASA hopes that by outsourcing the missions to low-Earth orbit they can focus on flying to deep space – even Mars!

I can barely contain my excitement!

pumped up

 

Meet the Astronauts NASA Just Picked to Return Space Launches to U.S. Soil