An asteroid mining company has unveiled the first 3D-printed object made of material from space.
The palm-sized geometric model, unveiled during CES 2016 in Las Vegas, was made from metal found in a meteorite that had landed on the Earth millions of years ago.
Planetary Resources, the company behind the development, made the model in collaboration with 3D-printing specialist 3D Systems.
“We used their direct metal printer to take this material and print an object,” said Chris Lewicki, the firm’s CEO. “This object came from a meteorite, came from space and this is the manufacturing technology that we will use in space.”
Planetary Resources has plans for mining materials on asteroids to make fuel and parts for rockets. 3D printing, they believe, is essential for establishing a full-blown space economy and the object unveiled at CES 2016 is the first step towards the goal.
“There is an infinite amount of resources in space, there are tens of millions of asteroids,” Lewicki said.
“If you can use materials that you find in space and use it to build things, make the oxygen you need, or even the rocket fuel that goes into your spaceship, this is actually how we are going to push the frontiers in outer space.”
To create the object, the meteorite found near Campo Del Cielo in Argentine, had to be pulverised and powdered to produce material suitable for 3D printing.
Planetary Resources has launched its first satellite this year from the International Space Station with the second one readying for launch this spring. The spacecraft, equipped with an infrared camera, will prospect near-Earth asteroids for usable resources.