Redwire‘s Ceramic Manufacturing Module (CMM) manufactured a ceramic part using pre-ceramic resins and additive stereolithography technology in space for the first time. The commercially developed in-space manufacturing facility successfully operated with full autonomy to manufacture a single-piece ceramic turbine blisk in orbit along with a series of material test coupons. The successful manufacture of these test samples in space is an important milestone to demonstrate the proof-of-potential for CMM to produce ceramic parts that exceed the quality of turbine components made on Earth. The ceramic blisk and test coupons will be stowed aboard the SpaceX Dragon CRS-21 spacecraft and returned to Earth for analysis. CMM, developed by Redwire subsidiary Made In Space, is the first SLA printer to operate on orbit.
“This is an exciting milestone for space enabled manufacturing and signals the potential for new markets that could spur commercial activity in low Earth orbit,” said Tom Campbell, president of Made In Space. “Building on our in-space manufacturing expertise and our partnership with NASA, Redwire is developing advanced manufacturing processes on orbit that could yield sustainable demand from terrestrial markets and creating capabilities that will allow humanity to sustainably live and work in space.”
CMM aims to demonstrate that ceramic manufacturing in microgravity could enable temperature-resistant, reinforced ceramic parts with better performance, including higher strength and lower residual stress. For high-performance applications such as turbines, nuclear plants, or internal combustion engines, even small strength improvements can yield years-to-decades of superior service life.
“The Ceramic Manufacturing Module’s successful on-orbit operations is an important step towards full-scale manufacturing of materials products that can improve industrial machines that we use on Earth,” said Michael Snyder, chief technology officer of Redwire. “The space manufacturing capabilities demonstrated by CMM have the potential to stimulate demand in low Earth orbit from terrestrial markets which will be a key driver for space industrialization.”
CMM was developed in partnership with the ISS Research Integration Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The ceramic facility is one of three ISS pilot payloads developed through this partnership that aims to catalyze and scale demand for commercial capabilities in low Earth orbit by producing high-value products for terrestrial use. Made In Space first demonstrated is pre-ceramic resins SLA printing technology found inside CMM through a series of parabolic flights funded through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program in 2016.
Additional technical partners for the CMM mission include HRL Laboratories of Malibu, California and Sierra Turbines of San Jose, California.
The successful CMM mission builds upon Redwire’s flight heritage with four other additive manufacturing facilities developed by the Made In Space team that have successfully flown and operated on the space station.