Asteroid miner 3D-prints spacecraft prototype with alien metal

Asteroid miner 3D-prints spacecraft prototype with alien metalPlanetary Resources, one of the companies aiming to mine asteroids and harvest valuable raw materials from space, has taken its ambitious a step further by 3D-printing an object using metal powder gleaned from a space rock.

This spacecraft prototype is the first object ever 3D-printed with material from outer space and, as the company pointed in a blog post Thursday, “it is reminiscent of a design that could originate from a 3D printer in the zero-gravity environment of space."

Planetary Resources sourced the alien material from the Campo Del Cielo craters near Argentina, the site of a meteor crash that happened over 4,000 years ago. The firm said it was composed of iron, nickel and cobalt — similar materials to refinery-grade steel.

Asteroid miner 3D-prints spacecraft prototype with alien metalThe company worked with 3D Systems to build the complex geometric object, which was unveiled Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Space mining has progressed rather quickly in the past year. Planetary Resources developed and put in orbit a spacecraft called Arkyd-3R, which it deployed from the International Space Station last July. The demonstration vehicle tested avionics, software and other key technology that future asteroid-mining probes will need.

Asteroid miner 3D-prints spacecraft prototype with alien metal

Last month, President Barack Obama signed into law a debated bill that allows people to mine, sell and own any space material. The ground-breaking rule is considered a major boost to asteroid mining as it encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids obtained by U.S. firms.

All images courtesy of Planetary Resources.