3D Printing in Space

Eagles and L3Harris Technologies send 3D printed devices to the International Space Station

When Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus-15 vehicle rocketed skyward on Feb. 20, bound for the International Space Station (ISS), its 8,000 pounds of cargo included a 3D printed electronics experiment by Embry-Riddle students. 

The Eagles are supporting a larger effort by L3Harris Technologies that will help advance the use of 3D printing or “additive manufacturing” for space applications. 

“Our students are contributing to a much broader initiative by L3Harris, thanks to Embry-Riddle’s partnership with this leading aerospace company,” says Dr. Eduardo Rojas-Nastrucci, faculty mentor and assistant professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn from a real-world client as they prepare for their future careers in this field.” 

For six months, Rojas and his team of student researchers will send signals from a 3D printed antenna on the ISS to new satellite ground stations at the Micaplex. The researchers will study the effects on the 3D-printed material after exposing the antenna and the shield to UV radiation, ionizing radiation and atomic oxygen.

All of these activities will support the characterization of a broader set of additively manufactured materials prepared by the L3Harris Technologies research team, led by Senior Scientist Dr. Arthur Paolella. 

“This is a great opportunity for us because we can study the degradation of 3D printed materials caused by different phenomena that only happen in outer space,” says Carlos Mejias, a Ph.D. student who worked on the radiation shielding and sensing components to monitor the radiation levels.