A giant robot at the NASA facility is helping engineers build the biggest, lightweight composite rocket parts so far made for future space vehicles to deeper missions including Mars.
Mounted on a 40-foot-long track at the composites technology centre of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the robot’s head has 16 spools of composite fibre tape that it releases in precise patterns to make both small and large objects.
To make large composite structures, the robot travels on the track and a head at the end of its 21-foot robot arm articulates in multiple directions. As the fibres are released, they are heated so that they adhere to various surfaces. The head can be changed out for different projects.
“This new robotic manufacturing system provides modern technology to develop low-cost and high-speed manufacturing processes for making large composite rocket structures,” said Preston Jones, deputy director of Marshall’s engineering directorate, in a statement.
The robot will build structures larger than eight metres (26 feet) in diameter, some of the largest composite structures ever constructed for space vehicles.