Today marks a first for space travel. The first 3D printer, for astronauts, blasted off from Cape Canaveral early this morning.
The SpaceX-4 Falcon 9 rocket lifted off without a hitch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral. Attached to the rocket is a Dragon spacecraft carrying the 3D printer and more than 5,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station.
The early morning liftoff marks the fifth SpaceX mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Last week, the company was selected along with Boeing for a contract to develop a vehicle for launching Americans into space. The U.S. reliance on Russia to get astronauts to the International Space Station will soon come to an end.
Here’s a few more details about the 3D printer headed to the ISS. Made in Space is the company behind the printer. It was designed to be a bit sturdier than printers found on solid ground, and had to meet NASA’s notoriously strict safety standards. This printer is designed as more of a proof of concept. NASA wants to see the tech in action up in space, then plans to ship a better printer up next year.
Having a 3D printer in space would be invaluable for astronauts. Spare parts could be made on the fly to conduct repairs, instead of waiting for a cargo ship from Earth.
Besides the much talked about 3D printer, the Dragon spacecraft is also carrying a $30 million device designed for measuring ocean winds. Biological experiments include 20 mice and 30 fruit flies. Even a golf club manufacturer is getting in on the action, according to the Associated Press.
NASA’s ticket for continuing spacewalks is also onboard the spacecraft. A battery fuse issue was the latest issue to hamper U.S. spacewalks. A fresh set of spacesuit batteries in the latest shipment to the ISS will resolve the issue. Spacewalks could resume as early as next month.
Astronaut Alexander Gerst, known for his breath-taking images on Twitter, will grab the Dragon spacecraft with ISS’ robotic arm at 7:04 am EDT on September 23.
Check out the video of this morning’s launch below.
The next SpaceX resupply launch will take place “no earlier than December,” according to NASA. This mission will deliver the normal supplies to the ISS along with CATS, an instrument to measure clouds and the distribution of pollution, smoke and other particulates in the atmosphere.
Image credit: NASA