OSAM-2 On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly & Manufacturing
Sometime around 2023, a Motiv xLink Robotic Arm will launch on board a spacecraft designed to do something unique: build a 3D-printed solar array while it’s orbiting the earth.
OSAM-2, formerly known as Archinaut One, is a technology demonstration mission. The mission is designed to show how additive manufacturing — more commonly known as 3D printing — can be used to build, assemble and deploy complex structures in space.
NASA awarded the contract for the mission to Made in Space in 2019, and Made in Space selected Motiv’s xLink robotic arm as the ideal partner for the mission.
After being deployed into orbit, the small OSAM-2 spacecraft will 3D-print two beams that extend nearly 10 meters from either side of the spacecraft.
Rolled solar arrays will extend outward from the spacecraft affixed to the end of each beam as they grow from the 3D-printing process.
In the end, the 3D-printed solar arrays will be able to generate up to 5x more power than traditional solar panels on a similarly sized spacecraft.
Through a private-public partnership with NASA, Made In Space Inc. will demonstrate the ability of a small spacecraft, called OSAM-2 (On-Orbit Servicing, Manufacturing and Assembly), to manufacture and assemble spacecraft components in low-Earth orbit.
Credits: Made In Space,Inc.
The xLink Robotic Arm plays a critical role throughout the OSAM-2 on-orbit manufacturing process.
To start things off, the xLink will configure the 3D-printing module to allow it to begin the printing process. Next, the xLink will affix one end of the rolled solar material to the end of the solar mast, so that it’s deployed as the mast grows through the 3D-printing process. During that process, the xLink will be responsible for affixing complementary pieces to the mast as it’s printed.
Once one mast has been printed on one side of the spacecraft, the xLink is responsible for repositioning the 3D-printing element to face the other side of the spacecraft, so it can repeat the process there and print the second mast.
In short, the xLink robotic arm is a complementary tool that will help the additive manufacturing process on board the OSAM-2 spacecraft to succeed.
Looking Beyond OSAM-2
As a technology demonstration, OSAM-2 is designed to show what’s possible with additive manufacturing in space. The collaboration between 3D printing and robotic arms like the xLink could enable the on-orbit construction of more complex devices like space telescopes, communications antennae, radar booms and other large devices.
It’s even possible that the same technology could have planetary or lunar applications. One day, the same core process might be responsible for deploying power grids or other infrastructure on the surface of the Moon, or even Mars.