The first items 3-D printed in space have arrived in Alabama for some down-to-earth testing.
Engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., unpacked a box filled with 21 different items 3-D printed on the International Space Station earlier this year, including a wrench — the first tool built in space.
NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore installed a 3-D printer from California-based Made In Space Inc. late last year, and in February, the astronauts began manufacturing parts produced in the station's Microgravity Science Glovebox. (Check out reporter Gayle S. Putrich's story on Made In Space's printer here.)
The project is part of a demonstration to determine if additive manufacturing can provide a print-on-demand “machine shop” to supply needed parts during a long-duration space mission.
The parts returned to earth on the SpaceX Dragon in February and were delivered to Huntsville, where the engineers “unboxed” the package on video Tuesday.
Film and foam makers may be pleased to note that the parts arrived safely, packed in protective foam and triple wrapped in secure plastic bags.
From here, the engineers will conduct tests on the parts' durability, strength and structural performance as well as how well they match the same parts produced on the same printer back on Earth last year.
Check out the unboxing video here: