Benefits of Additive Manufacturing for Human Exploration of Mars



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45th International Conference on Environmental Systems


The emplacement of a human outpost on Mars presents an unprecedented logistical challenge. Large distances, limited launch opportunities, and extended transit times between Earth and Mars mean that the availability of spare parts to repair systems – particularly environmental control and life support (ECLS) systems – will critical for Mars exploration. Longer mission durations increase the probability of component failures and uncertainty regarding which components may fail. Therefore, the mass of spare parts required for confidence in system maintenance capability will be a significant portion of the overall system mass. In-situ manufacturing of spare parts has been proposed as a means to reduce this spares logistics mass. In particular, Additive Manufacturing (AM) or “3D printing” techniques show promise by enabling commonality at a material level – the creation of useful parts from undifferentiated feedstock. However, significant technology development is still required before these systems can be implemented in a critical system. In this paper, we quantify the benefits of AM capability, in terms of mass savings, to inform technology development investment decisions. We examine the spares logistics requirements for a notional multi-decade Mars exploration campaign for cases using traditional spares and two notional levels of AM capability, as well as the option to produce feedstock in-situ. Our case study finds that even small AM capability can reduce ECLS spares logistics mass by 2.87t over the course of the mission campaign; a higher level of AM capability provides a reduction of 5.71t. When feedstock is produced in-situ the logistics mass reduction can be as high as 5.21t and 9.80t for the low- and high-capability cases, respectively. We discuss the implications and limitations of these results and other considerations such as supporting technology and changes to system design to facilitate AM, as well as future extensions of this modeling framework.


Bellevue, Washington
Andrew Owens, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
Sydney Do, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
Andrew Kurtz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
Olivier de Weck, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
The 45th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Bellevue, Washington, USA on 12 July 2015 through 16 July 2015.