Nasa robot to construct greatest rocket parts for Mars mission

Nasa robot to construct greatest rocket parts for Mars mission

Nasa robot to construct greatest rocket parts for Mars mission

A giant robot is helping Nasa engineers to build the largest, lightweight composite rocket parts ever developed for future space vehicles to deeper manned including Mars exploration.

The robot installed at Nasa’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama, is one of the largest composites manufacturing robots created in America, the US space agency said.

“This addition to Marshall’s Composites Technology Centre provides modern technology to develop low-cost and high-speed manufacturing processes for making large composite rocket structures,” said Preston Jones, deputy director of Marshall’s Engineering Directorate.

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“We will build and test these structures to determine if they are a good fit for space vehicles that will carry humans on exploration missions to Mars and other places,” said Jones.

It takes a myriad of different materials to build a space vehicle like Nasa’s new Space Launch System, a heavy-lift rocket designed to take explorers on deep space missions.

The lighter the rocket, the more payload – crew, science instruments, food, equipment, and habitats – the rocket can carry to space, Nasa said.

Lightweight composites have the potential to increase the amount of payload that can be carried by a rocket along with lowering its total production cost.

Nasa is conducting composites manufacturing technology development and demonstration projects to determine whether composites can be part of the evolved Space Launch System and other exploration spacecraft, such as landers, rovers, and habitats.

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“The robot will build structures larger than 8 meters, or 26 feet, in diameter, some of the largest composite structures ever constructed for space vehicles,” said Justin Jackson, the Marshall materials engineer who installed and checked out the robot and who helped build and test one of the largest composite rocket fuel tanks ever made.

“Marshall’s investment in this robot will help mature composites manufacturing technology that may lead to more affordable space vehicles,” said Jackson.

To make large composite structures, the robot travels on a track, and a head at the end of its 21-foot robot arm articulates in multiple directions.

The head can hold up to 16 spools of carbon fibres that look like pieces of tape and are as thin as human hairs.

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The robot places the fibres onto a tooling surface in precise patterns to form different large structures of varying shapes and sizes.

In what looks like an elaborate dance, the tooling surface holds the piece on a rotisserie-like system on a parallel track next to the robot, NASA said.

The robot head can be changed for different projects, which makes the system flexible and usable for various types of manufacturing.

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