DIY Space: Print Your Own Spacecraft

3D model of Kepler. It’s yours, for free. Just go to the NASA 3D Resources site. That’s where this picture came from.

Have you ever wanted to build the Kepler satellite?  What about the current crowd favorite, the International Sun Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3)?  Or maybe you appreciate textures and just want to touch things, such as the moon’s surface, space shuttle flight panels (with switches),  or the surface of Chiron.  Maybe you’re a visual type, who truly appreciates images of NASA’s efforts in space.  If so, then the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a great site for you.

Before you get excited, I must ask–do you have a 3-D printer?  If you do, terrific.  Even if you don’t, you might have access to one but don’t know it (a little bit more about this option later).  Either way, NASA’s site, “NASA 3D Resources (beta),” will probably be you’re favorite site for quite a while.  You can print out models, like the “New Horizons” spacecraft or the “Rosetta” satellite.  Maybe both.  Same for the textures and such.

The best part is these models is that NASA is providing these model files for FREE.  As in, it will only cost you whatever amount of electricity is needed to download the file and write to the storage drive.  Of course, you do need to have access to a 3D printer.  So if a friend of yours has one, maybe that person will be your best friend for a while.  Another option is the local library.  Yup, the library.  My local library just opened a Makerspace not too long ago, and among the nifty bits of equipment such as a laser cutter and a CNC machine, a 3D printer is available.  Or, if you have them in your area, go to the local Makerspace or TechShop.  While the library is probably one of the lowest cost options for us jobless, the others seem to have fairly reasonable rates for the different options they offer.

So, yes, you can build a NASA satellite.  They’re giving you the plans, and maybe you have the technology.  If so, have a great time!

Side note:  There’s a holiday Monday.  Not everyone takes that day off, but I intend to (likely I’ll be writing up the next post).  So, there will not be a post this Monday.  Enjoy Labor Day, my fellow ‘meruhcans.  The rest of you, have a great Monday.


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