Up till now, we used to do all kinds of constructional work here on Earth. However, that is about to change now. Nasa has awarded a $142 million fund to Colorado-based Maxar Technologies which is developing the world’s first in-space construction technology for NASA – satellites only as of now. Maxar Technologies has created a beam-manufacturing device known as MakerSat, which can build a structural beam and robotic assembly of a communication antenna on satellites and ISS.
However, Maxar Technologies is not alone in the creation of this in-space construction technology; Tethers Unlimited, West Virginia Robotic Technology Center, NASA’s Langley Research Center and other partnering companies also assisted in the development of in-space construction tech. The new technology will go into space aboard NASA’s Restore-L spacecraft, which is solely made by the Maxar Technologies for NASA.
The Restore-L spacecraft will go into low Earth orbit and work on the Landsat 7 Earth-observing satellite for the initial testing process.
Once the spacecraft successfully arrives on the Landsat 7 satellite, the Maxar’s SPIDER robot – the assembly builder – will take on the assembly construction task. The SPIDER robot has a 16-foot-long arm that is designed to construct a seven-element structure of a 9-foot-wide communication antenna.
Maxar Technologies made a successful demonstration on-ground back in 2017 with the SPIDER robot, which ultimately won the rising space technology company NASA’s grant of $142 million. The program was initially named project Dragonfly. Maxar Technologies has a profound record of producing in-space products – most of them the arms of space probes of NASA’s missions to Mars. In case this new venture goes as expected, it will usher the world into a new age of in-space construction.
Over here it is important to note the words of the late great Prof. Stephen Hawking who gave humanity an ultimatum between 100 to 500 years to find a new home in the Solar System. The in-space construction technologies will play a pivotal role in human’s pursuit of a new home in space. And with NASA officially commissioning the first-ever mission of in-space construction, this leads humans one small step closer to space colonization prospects. While we are still quite light years away from a proper space migration effort, the process has finally started in the right direction. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed and our faith intact in the brilliance of science.