From crude tools to one-story homes to the greatest skyscrapers, almost everything the human race has ever constructed has had one major limitation: the gravity of Earth. Nevertheless, if some scientists get their way, this might soon alter.
Currently, a metal box the size of a desktop PC tower is located on the International Space Station (ISS).
A nozzle inside is assisting in the construction of tiny test parts that are impossible to manufacture on Earth. These structures wouldn’t stand up to Earth’s gravity if they were built there.
One of the researchers (on Earth) working on the project is space architect Ariel Ekblaw, who created MIT’s Space Exploration Initiative. “These are going to be our first results for a really novel process in microgravity,” he says.
In the MIT team’s method, a flexible silicone skin that closely resembles the part it would ultimately produce is taken and filled with a liquid resin.
Martin Nisser, an engineer at MIT and one of the project’s researchers, believes that “you can think of them as balloons.” “Inject them with resin rather than air,” was the instruction. The skin and the resin are both readily available, over-the-counter goods.
UV light is reactive with the resin. A UV flash causes the balloons to emit light that passes through their skin and covers the resin.
It hardens into a solid structure as it dries and stiffens. Astronauts can remove the skin and reveal the internal component once it has healed.
According to the researchers, in the not-too-distant future, astronauts won’t need to send one from Earth to replace a mass-produced component like a nut or bolt.
Instead, they might simply place a skin in the shape of a nut or bolt inside a container similar to this and fill it with resin.
However, the researchers are also considering the long run. They believe that by producing extremely lengthy parts in space, they will be able to build big building projects, such as the habitats for spacecraft, more quickly.
They may also serve as the structural framework for radiators that prevent a habitat from becoming too warm or solar panels that power it.
To read our blog on “Astronauts developed first time a lab module in a Chinese space station,” click here.