Juno’s 3D-Printed Parts Survive Trip to Jupiter

After a five-year journey, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has arrived at its destination: the orbit of Jupiter, where it will collect data about the solar system’s largest planet. The Juno mission, managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), has accomplished a number of firsts—including the first planetary spacecraft to make use of 3D-printed components.

An illustration of the Juno spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter. (Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

An illustration of the Juno spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter. (Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

Juno was constructed in part by defense giant Lockheed Martin, which chose to use 3D printing to produce about a dozen waveguide titanium brackets for the spacecraft. To fabricate the parts, Lockheed used an electron beam melting machine from Arcam, which uses an electron beam to melt titanium powder one layer at a time before a knife blade moves subsequent layers of powder onto the bed.

3D-printed waveguide bracket before and after post-processing. (Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

3D-printed waveguide bracket before and after post-processing. (Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin.)

Stacking the brackets within the system’s 8 in x 8 in x 14 in build envelope enables cost-efficient batch production. By 3D printing the brackets, the company was able to reduce the cost and manufacturing time for the components by about 50 percent.

On Earth, Lockheed first conducted confidence testing to ensure that the parts would perform as expected before the spacecraft was ultimately launched aboard the Atlas V 551 rocket on Aug. 5, 2011. Now that Juno has survived the 1.76-billion-mile journey to Jupiter, entering the planet’s orbit on Jul. 4, 2016, the brackets are being put through the ultimate test as they orbit around the gas giant. Watch the Juno approach video below.

While the 3D-printed components demonstrate the ability to withstand the harsh environment of space, Juno will be making observations using nine different instruments dedicated to measuring radio, microwave, visible and ultraviolet light frequencies, as well particle sensors and magnetometers.

In addition to being the first planetary spacecraft to use 3D-printed components, Juno is also the first solar-powered spacecraft to study Jupiter and the farthest spacecraft from the sun to rely on solar power. Juno is capable of this feat thanks to three 30-foot-long arrays made up of 18,698 solar cells spanning 535 sq ft.

After conducting 33 elliptical orbits, Juno is slated to end its mission on Feb. 20, 2018. At its mission’s end, it will de-orbit into Jupiter to protect the planet’s moons. At that point, it will be so long, 3D-printed parts, advanced measurement equipment and the entire Juno spacecraft.

Don’t fret, however. There’s plenty of 3D printing-space news ahead! Lockheed Martin plans to include 3D-printed parts on future satellites; space printers may, one day, allow NASA to turn asteroids into spaceships; and Enterprise In Space is working to 3D print a spacecraft to orbit Earth with more than 100 experiments from student teams aboard.

via ENGINEERING.com RSS Feeds http://ift.tt/29fhOjf

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s