NASA picks three partners for NextSTEP fabrication capability program

By Nell Walker
NASA is moving onto the next step of a space-based on-demand fabrication capability, which it will be unlocking with the support of Interlog Corporation...

NASA is moving onto the next step of a space-based on-demand fabrication capability, which it will be unlocking with the support of Interlog Corporation of Anaheim CA; Techshot Inc. of Greeneville, IN; and Tethers Unlimited, Inc. of Bothell, WA.

The partnerships with these three American companies is part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program, for the creation of prototypes. Combined funding for the awards is approximately US$10.2m, and the businesses will have 18 months to deliver the prototypes. Then, NASA will select additional partners to further mature the technologies.

Earlier in the year, NASA sought proposals for ground-based prototypes of a multi-material fabrication lab – or FabLab – under Appendix B of the NextSTEP-2 Broad Agency Announcement. With the latest partnerships, the agency aims to take the effort to the next level.

"NASA is challenging industry partners to expand possibilities for making, repairing and recycling items in space," said Niki Werkheiser, Lead for In-Space Manufacturing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

"The FabLab prototypes will provide valuable insights and help lay the foundation for meaningful on-demand manufacturing capabilities needed for sustainable human spaceflight missions."

FabLab is part of a broad agency strategy and series of investments managed by NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems Division and Space Technology Mission Directorate to advance key technology capability areas.

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