Composites Manufacturing Magazine

First Fully 3-D Printed Satellite Launched from International Space Station Completes Mission

According to multiple outlets covering the 3-D printing industry, the first ever fully 3-D printed satellite to be launched from the International Space Station (ISS) has successfully completed its mission, safely returning to the Earth’s atmosphere.

The satellite, called Tubesat-POD (or TuPOD, for short), was originally conceived of by Italian company GAUSS (Group of Astrodynamics for the Use of Space Systems) and California-based Tetonsys as a solution for launching “TubeSats” (compact cylindrical-shaped satellites from the ISS). TubeSats are cylindrical in shape and not compatible with the normal CubeSats deployer platform (P-POD) on ISS, so the TuPOD was developed to address the issue. The mission not only marks the first time a fully 3-D printed satellite has completed a launch mission from the ISS, but also the first time that TubeSats have been successfully launched into space. The TuPOD is the first launching device for TubeSats.

After much development and testing, the TuPOD was ultimately 3-D printed from CRP USA’s Windform® XT 2.0 carbon reinforced composite material. The satellite was produced by Tetonsys and GAUSS with support from both CRP USA and Morehead State University, which helped prepare it for launch. According to CRP USA, the Windform® technology is known for its superior mechanical properties and has passed outgassing screening at NASA so it is suitable for space applications.

“Using Windform® XT 2.0 material in the 3D manufacturing of TuPOD was one of the best decisions we have ever made,” said Amin Djamshidpour, the designer of the TuPOD. “During the prototyping phase and even during final manufacturing, we got into multiple situations where we needed to drill parts or make small modifications to the 3-D printed structure, working with Windform® XT 2.0 gave us the ability to do so.”