UTEP Launches First-Ever 3-D Printed Electronics into Space

What: The first-ever 3-D printed electronics will be launched into space.
When: Preparations for launch begin at 6:30 p.m. (EST) Tuesday, Nov. 19.
             Mission is set for liftoff between 7:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. (EST)
Where: NASA’s Flight Facility in Wallops, VA

 
On Tuesday, UTEP’s W.M. Keck Center for 3-D Innovation—a state-of-the-art laboratory focusing on the advancement of 3-D printing, or additive manufacturing—will send the first-ever 3-D printed electronics into space.
 
“Danny Olivas was our first astronaut in space and hopefully this will be our first electronics in space,” said Ryan Wicker, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Keck Center.
 
The printed electronics will travel to space inside a CubeSat, a miniature university-based satellite owned by the University of New Mexico that will be launched as part of a resupply mission for NASA—although the electronics are just along for the ride.
 
“If you can make 3-D electronics, that’s great, but if you can make 3-D electronics that can go into space and continue to work, then that makes a statement about reliability,” said Eric MacDonald, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate director of the Keck Center. “Space is a vacuum, and there’s radiation, and incredibly wide temperature swings—which can cause materials to degrade. But in this case, we’re going to prove that our technology will work.”
 
The 3-D printed electronics will be launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia onboard a U.S. Air Force rocket called Minotaur 1.
 
A copy of the Keck Center’s 3-D printed electronics that will travel to space are currently on display at the London Science Museum in an exhibit called 3D: Printing the Future. The exhibit will run through June 2014.
 
A total of 31 satellites will be launched from the rocket. The satellites will be ejected and transmit data approximately 45 minutes after liftoff.
 
View a live stream of the launch here.