Under a new partnership, Stratasys Ltd. of Eden Prairie and Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies, Inc. (PADT) are teaming with Lockheed Martin Space to make a 3-D printed hatch door for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, company officials announced Tuesday.
Stratasys' 3-D printers and advanced materials, which have special thermoplastic properties, will be used to make the intricate, docking hatch-door for Orion's next mission.
The selection is a boost for Stratasys, which traditionally makes its 3-D printers and component parts for auto, aerospace, industrial and medical device firms. Launches into outer space is a new and welcome skillset for Stratasys, which is dually headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota and Rehovot, Israel.
The Stratasys 3-D printed materials that Lockheed Martin selected include special high-strength resins and a unique type of "Antero 800NA" electro-static dissipative plastic. Combined, the materials offer "high performance mechanical, chemical and thermal properties," officials said.
NASA noted that "Antero is ideally suited to meet NASA’s requirements for heat and chemical resistance, along with the ability to withstand high mechanical loads."
The 3-D printed parts will be used aboard Orion’s next test flight, which NASA officials have named Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).
The flight will use a powerful rocket and Space Launch System to fly the un-manned Orion spacecraft thousands of miles beyond the Moon during a three week mission.
A later flight, named EM-2, is expected to carry astronauts near the moon as part of an experimental mission designed to prepare NASA for later flights that venture into deeper parts of outer space.
The EM-2 mission will use more than 100 3-D printed parts on board. All of the parts will be engineered in conjunction with Lockheed Martin, Stratasys and PADT, Stratasys officials said.
The production-grade, thermoplastic 3-D printed parts that go into the Orion vehicle will be produced at Lockheed Martin's Additive Manufacturing Lab in conjunction with PADT, which uses Stratasys 3D printers and materials.
Brian Kaplun, Lockheed Martin Space's additive manufacturing manager praised the project.
“Working with PADT, Stratasys, and NASA has enabled us to achieve highly consistent builds that move beyond the realm of prototyping and into production," he said. "We’re not just creating parts, we’re reshaping our production strategy to make spacecraft more affordable and faster to produce.”