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Rocket Lab helps NASA 3D print pieces of ships in orbit



New Zealand is willing to play a role in the future of spacecraft construction by helping NASA print 3D parts in space.

The US space agency will launch the experimental ship Archinaut One from the base of the Mahia Peninsula of Rocket Lab.

Once in orbit, Archinaut will print in 3D two beams 10 meters long from both sides of its body, which will then deploy two massive solar panels.

The panels can generate up to five times more energy than traditional solar panels in spacecraft of similar size.

If successful, the technology could help astronauts avoid risky spacewalks by having printers build parts for them.

It would also allow the launch of large spacecraft in smaller packages, a big help for Rocket Lab, which specializes in launching micro-satellites.

"Robotic manufacturing and assembly in space are indisputable game changes," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA's Space Technology Missions Division.

Archinaut One is scheduled to be released no earlier than 2022.


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