Made in Space

Ever since we, humans, exist as species, we have used science to create clothing, starting from the Prehistoric Era, when animal skins were used to keep warm, going through the Contemporary Period, when smart technologies are being applied to an increasing number of fashion pieces to the point when the time has come for a swap, and NASA’s latest invention is the unshakable proof of science finally turning to fashion for inspiration.

The world’s jaw dropped last year when the first ever tool was printed out in Space, but now this seems to have been just the beginning, as NASA system engineer Raul Polit Casillas and his team developed a prototype of the so called ‘Space Fabric’.

What makes this material with chain mail structure particularly unique is its 4D production technology – it is not sewn by hand, but built up layer by layer, using precisely controlled lasers to stream polymers or metallic powders. This technique is called additive manufacturing and allows both the geometry and the function of the ‘Space Fabric’ to be printed out, reducing the cost and amount of time spent on integration and testing and increasing the ability to create unique materials, intricate shapes and program new functions into the material.

Among the most useful qualities of this fascinating invention are its reflectivity, foldability and tensile strength, as well as the passive heat management with one side of the fabric reflecting light and heat and the other absorbing them. This way this extremely durable material could be folded in a variety of manners and adapted to a wide range of shapes, while still being able to sustain its strength.

The ‘Space Fabric’s insulating qualities and its flexibility make it suitable for protection of both deployable devices and astronauts themselves, whereas its mechanical strength and chain mail structure could provide physical protection from meteorites and various conditions. The unique dual functionality of the fabric could be alternatively applied to the production of radiation insulation blankets and terrain stabilization.

NASA’s aspirations, however, go far beyond manufacturing on Earth, their plan for the future is to enable astronauts to produce the tools they need directly in Space, allowing them to print out and even recycle objects, by breaking them down and reusing them. This, Polit Casillas claims, is crucial when you are alone in Space with a limited amount of resources available.

The unique invention promises a revolution in both the world of science and this of the glamorous catwalks, classifying as the next fashion statement, manufactured in Space.



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