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NASA has announced that a new partnership, Stratasys of Eden Prairie and Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies are teaming with Lockheed Martin Space to make a 3D printed hatch door for NASA’s Orion spacecraft.


This is a new venture for Stratasys which traditionally makes 3D printers and component parts for automotive, aerospace, industrial and medical device firms. The Stratasys printed materials that Lockheed selected includes high-strength resins and Antero 800NA electrostatic dissipative plastic materials offer high-performance mechanical chemical and thermal properties according to officials.


Stratasys was founded in 1989, by S. Scott Crump and his wife Lisa Crump in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Crump’s idea for the technology came to him in 1988 when he decided to make a frog for his young daughter by using a glue gun with a mixture of polyethylene and candle wax in creating the shape layer by layer and of a way to automate the process. Four years later in 1992, Stratasys sold its first product, the 3D Modeler.


In October 1994, Stratasys had an initial public offering on the NASDAQ; they sold 1.38 million shares of common stock at five dollars per share. In 1995, Stratasys bought IBM’s rapid prototyping intellectual property and other assets. They also employed 16 former IBM engineers who’d been developing a small 3D printer that relied on extrusion system similar to Crump’s patented fused deposition modeling technology.


Over the next 20 years through mergers and acquisitions Stratasys became a three billion-dollar company. Since that time, it has invested in an Israeli company’s Massivit 3D Printing Technologies, in development of 3D car production systems and in the Canadian Urbee futuristic hybrid vehicle.


The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion MPCV)


Previously NASA had a program called Constellation which became under budgeted and behind schedule by more than four years. NASA scrapped that program and initiated The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. On December 5, 2014 a modified version of the Orion MPCV marked NASA’s reentry into designing and producing new crewed spacecraft.


The Orion MPCV takes its basic design elements from the Apollo Command Module that took astronauts to the moon. It’s technology and capability have been modernized and are more advanced. Currently, his design is to support long duration deep space missions with up to 21 days of active crew time plus 6 months quiescence. The spacecraft includes both crew and service modules, and the spacecraft adapter.


The Orion crew module (CM) is a reusable transportation capsule that provides a habitat for the crew, provide storage for consumables and research instruments, and serves as the docking port for crew transfers. It will have more than 50% more volume than the Apollo capsule and will carry 4 to 6 astronauts.


Some of the advanced technologies that Orion’s CM will have included :

  • a glass cockpit with digital control systems derived from those of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
  • an autodidact feature with provisions for the flight crew to take over an emergency
  • improved waste management facilities with a miniature camping style toilet and a unisex relief tube
  • a nitrogen oxygen next atmosphere
  • far more advanced computers than on prior crew vehicles


It’s pretty exciting to be writing about a new Mars Lander spacecraft with people aboard!