I was having a conversation with a buddy at CSUN today when a very interesting topic came up. We were talking about 3D printers and then he mentioned a project that is currently being worked on where robots are being designed to build massive structures in space. This sounds like something straight out of Star Trek. As I always do when my curiosity gets the best of me, I went to the nearest computer and began to Google. And here’s what I found.
It’s called SpiderFab. A company in the U.S. named Tethers Unlimited (TUI) is actually working on building a robot that can construct structures in orbit. That’s right; they would like to build structures such as satellites or small spacecraft in orbit instead of on Earth. Crazy idea huh? Maybe not. TUI is contracting with NASA so this is very real.
So what is a SpiderFab anyway? Spiderfab is robot space technology that uses spider-like robots that will basically grip objects and weld them together and joins these large structures with 3D printed components. The name SpiderFab is fitting because the robot will have multiple arms and will look like a big white spider. I wrote a small post a while back about 3D printing so I find this topic to be a very fascinating. 3d printing is definitely going to change the way we do things in the future although I don’t think the technology is anywhere close to where it should be for this kind of project. But then again, what do I know? It will be interesting to see this story develop.
I found a cool quote from the CEO of TUI, Rob Hoyt “We’re in early stages but we’re making really good progress so far.” He also said “This radically different approach to building space systems will enable us to create antennas and arrays that are tens-to-hundreds of times larger than are possible now, providing higher power, higher bandwidth, higher resolution, and higher sensitivity for a wide range of space missions.” That’s pretty exciting.