One of the consistently difficult hurdles for space exploration is cost. With dwindling governmental support the initiative has moved toward the private sector.
One company, called Tethers Unlimited is developing a futuristic “Arachnid-like” droid system, funded by the North American Space Agency, that hopes to help humanity’s journey into – and settlement in – outer-space.
The Nasa-back firm says it could dramatically reduce the cost of building spacecraft by allowing the final construction to take place in orbit.
According to the researchers, SpiderFab will enable “on-orbit fabrication of large spacecraft components such as antennas, solar panels, trusses, and other multifunctional structures.”
“SpiderFab provides order-of-magnitude packing- and mass- efficiency improvements over current deployable structures and enables construction of kilometer-scale apertures within current launch vehicle capabilities, providing higher-resolution data at lower life-cycle cost,” Tethers said.
“The net payoff will be to enable NASA to acquire and distribute a variety of forms of data at higher resolution, higher bandwidth, higher signal-to-noise, and lower life-cycle cost.”
“Our really long-term objective for all of this work is to eventually enable the use of in-situ resources to construct the infrastructure in space needed to support humanity’s expansion throughout the solar system,” Dr. Robert Hoyt claimed last month during a presentation with NASA’s Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group.
Hoyt hopes that SpiderFab could be implemented in the next decade or so.
“In a perfect world — if funding flowed and the contracting process didn’t drag on forever — we think we could get to be able to build very large support structures for antennas and solar arrays, and those sorts of components, in the early 2020s.”