Aerospace European company Airbus will launch a 3D printer that makes metal at the International Space Station next year as the first step in its plans to establish an orbital satellite industry.
The printer, called Metal3D, can work with molten metals at temperatures up to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit (1,200 degrees Celsius). It will be the first 3D metal printer on the space station, Airbus said in a statement (opens a new tab), and will enable astronauts to print parts such as radiation shields and various tools. (The American company Made In Space, now owned by Redwire, has sent several 3D printers to the space station, but none of them can print metal.)
The company added that future versions of the 3D printer would be able to make things using moonlight and reuse parts of old satellites.
The Metal3D printer is only one part of the list of technologies developed by Airbus to set up the space industry. In a series of videos, Airbus showcased a robotic deception machine designed to assemble spacecraft.
“Airbus’ solution is to launch kit kits that will be integrated into the atmosphere with robotic arms from our space industry,” the company said in a statement.
The arms of the robots will be able to build in orbit, says Airbus, but they could also be used to repair and refill spacecraft.
The company said it would like to be able to make complete satellites in space “in the next three to four years.”