Physical location matters in manuafacturing. The place where something is made can determine how much it is taxed or tariffed. It can reduce costs on production and shipping, which lowers costs for manufacturers and consumers. Goods can actually become different goods depending on the physical location of its origin; champagne becomes sparkling wine, bourbon becomes whiskey, and parmigiano-reggiano becomes parmesan. The country of origin label alone can be the deciding factor for consumers, as we’ve seen with the Made in America movement. So what happens when you start manufacturing in space?
Made in Space
Made in Space develops “state-of-the-art space manufacturing technology to support exploration, national security, and sustainable space settlement.” The California-based company has demonstrated the value of off-Earth manufacturing, and is currently working on a spacecraft called Archinaut One with nearly $74 million in funding from NASA.
After launching into Earth’s orbit, Archinaut One will use additive manufacturing (3D printing) to produce two 10-meter-long solar arrays. These arrays collect five times as much energy as traditional panels used on spacecraft. Made in Space could launch a test flight as soon as 2022.
While off-earth manufacturing is certainly cool it’s also slow, inefficient, and expensive. So why would NASA invest almost $74 million in this technology?
Why manufacturing in space?
Even if you don’t think we’ll ever have an operational lunar base, colonize Mars, or harness the power of the sun like it’s our own personal nuclear reactor, there’s no denying that humans are going to try and keep pushing further and further out into space.
Humans are bold, intrepid, curious, and we’ve seen too many lightsaber battles to be content to sit here on our little blue planet. There are some obstacles to overcome with space exploration. The vacuum of space, distance that’s measured in light years, and our fragile human bodies are a few of the big ones.
We have to clear the smaller hurdles first. Simply getting big things into space and delicate structures is a very real problem. Being able to manufacture parts and structures in orbit can help improve space exploration.
While it’s fun to daydream about manufacturing in space don’t forget about manufacturing here on Earth. Make sure that your Indramat motion control system keeps operating at its best. We can help. Call 479-422-0390 for Indramat troubleshooting, support, service, and repair.