The Dragon has been in operation ever since its test flights in May 2012, and it is of enormous use to the space program. For example, one of its missions saw the spacecraft transport more than 500 kilos of provisions up to the astronauts, including 160 scientific experiments, and then return with a cargo of more than a thousand kilos, containing, among other things, biotechnology and biological materials samples from studies carried out in microgravity.
In September this year it was time for the Dragon to carry the Zero-G printer into Earth's orbit, the first 3D printer capable of operating in a weightless environment. This project was made possible through a partnership between NASA and the company 'Made In Space’.
Founded in 2010, this company is dedicated to developing technologies that can produce objects in extraterrestrial environments, something that is not easy. Just for the Zero-G Printer, it took a total of 30,000 hours of testing and more than 400 parabolas spent in microgravity. Even after arriving in orbit, the device still required careful calibration for it to function in the absence of Earth's gravitational force.
The success of the project was confirmed at the end of last month when the first object was printed in space - an unprecedented event! According to statements made to the media by the company Made In Space, it was as if the object had been 'teleported' into space through the sending of bits to the 3D printer, which had then 'materialized' it on the International Space Station.
This simple thing, a small white square with the inscription "Made In Space, NASA", gives a new face to the Space Age. The creation of objects in microgravity is now a reality. If the quality of these products is good, cost-effective and appealing, space could become a great opportunity for Earth-based industry. Perhaps the next generations will see an enormous range of products labelled 'Made in Space', instead of 'Made in China'.
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