Payload development engineer Marko Baricevic of Tethers Unlimited Inc. conducts flight certification tests at Marshall Space Flight Center. (NASA Photo / Emmett Givens)
There’s nothing new about having a 3-D printer in space, but how about a 3-D printer that also recycles plastic to turn old stuff into new? Just such a gizmo is due to be delivered to the International Space Station next week.
Bothell, Wash.-based Tethers Unlimited built the device, which is about the size of a mini fridge and is known as the Refabricator, in cooperation with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. After months of testing, the Refabricator is on the payload manifest for Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo resupply flight, scheduled for liftoff from Virginia’s Wallops Flight Facility on Nov. 15.
If all proceeds according to schedule, the uncrewed Cygnus craft should arrive at the station a couple of days after launch. Once the cargo is unloaded, the Refabricator will be installed and put through a series of test prints.
The plan calls for standardized samples to be printed out, using plastic feedstock. Those samples can then be recycled back into filament through a process that Tethers Unlimited calls “Positrusion.” Researchers will check how the ...