There is a need for manufacturing in space for use while in space for two reasons: one for creating human settlements in moon, mars, asteroids, or other places and two for use during long-term stay in space such as onboard a space station or in a long haul journey of a manned space craft, without depending on resupply missions.
Sub-vertical A1 will focus on technologies needed for human settlements in the moon or mars. Infrastructure is the foundation of any colony whether on earth or elsewhere. Concrete is a potential choice for infrastructure development. One of the goals of this Center of Excellence will be to develop extra-terrestrial concrete (ETC). Lack of water in these extra-terrestrial places has been the motivation to pursue this research. The other challenge would be to drill the surface not only for analysis but also for raw material extraction. Such a drilling exploration would have to be carried out unmanned (initially) by searching over a large terrain and drilling at suitable locations. This requires a complex robotic drilling system that can be remotely commanded from the earth and should work in a smart self-correcting way without breaking drills or changing drills suitably to deal with the unknown sub-surface soil encountered.
Sub-vertical A2 will design both processes and machines needed on-board providing self-reliance in making needed consumables and replacement parts on-board. Processes investigated will include 3D printing (polymers), hybrid 3D printer machining systems (for metals), in-situ coating technologies, in-situ optics fabrication and those needed for medical diagnostic kits. These processes would deviate significantly from earth-based techniques in accommodating a range of materials to be processed, low-gravity conditions, compactness and the controls involved in discarding waste materials. This sub-vertical would also investigate recycling processes that make use of by-products generated by the processes or discarded components. Can machining by-products - powders and chips, be recompacted into 3D printable wire or sheet feedstock? Can packaging aluminum foils be reprocessed into 3D printable wire feedstock? Can packaging plastics be recycled? How can used electronics be recycled to extract useful elements such as copper and other rare earth elements? These are questions that will be answered.