NASA AND TTH USE CARBON 3D PRINTING TO CREATE SEEKER SPACECRAFT INSPECTION ROBOTS

3D Printing Industry | 4/23/2019 | Tia Vialva
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The Technology House (TTH), a product development service provider, has used Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) 3D printing technology from Silicon-valley based Carbon to help produce autonomous robotic systems as part of the SEEKER project for NASA.

Costing $3 million, the SEEKER project from NASA comprises of two free flying autonomous robots, Seeker and Kenobi, designed to inspect and monitor such craft while in space. Seeker and Kenobi were launched aboard the Cygnus spacecraft from global security company Northrop Grumman, a commercial partner of NASA, as part of the first demonstration of the free flyer technology for autonomous robotic inspection from NASA. Cygnus was launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on April 17th to carry out Northrop Grumman’s Commercial Resupply Services mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

TTH - Carbon - M2 - Printer - Conjunction

TTH utilized Carbon’s M2 3D printer in conjunction with Cyanate Ester 221 (CE 221) to produce four high-performance thrusters for the cold-gas propulsion system within the Seeker robots for NASA. According to TTH, the SEEKER project contains the “first certified plastic additive manufactured parts in actual space.”

The Seeker and Kenobi free flying robots. Photo via Carbon.

Seeker - Robots - CubeSats - Satellites - Cm

The Seeker robots are CubeSats (miniaturized satellites) each approximately 10 cm x 10 cm x 30 cm in length. Designed to free fly externally around spaceships to inspect for malfunctions (like leaks), the Seeker devices utilize a cold-gas propulsion system containing 12, 0.1N thrusters, and a Guidance Navigation and Control (GN&C) system to maneuver in orbit, featuring a convoluted neural network. The Seeker CubeSat will inspect the Cygnus spacecraft, whereas the Kenobi acts as a translator between Cygnus and the Seeker.

With a year from project initiation to integration for launch, NASA adopted a rapid iterative design approach to quickly produce the Seeker robots whilst making sure they meet the quality requirements. The team developing the Seeker ran...
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