Formerly known as Arkyd Astronautics, Planetary Resources is first and foremost an asteroid mining company. In fact, the company had already taken their first step towards to this seemingly futuristic scope in June of last year, when they successfully deployed the Arkyd 3 Reflight spacecraft from ISS (after the original A3R tester was destroyed by an explosion of an unmanned Antares rocket). And now, the company is back albeit in a smaller scale, with their CES demonstration of world’s first 3D printed extraterrestrial object. Sculpted from a prehistoric meteorite substrate, the resultant piece pertains to a stylized 3D printed spacecraft model that alludes to the future of asteroid mining.
The sculptural artwork (which has been touted as the world’s first 3D printed extraterrestrial object) is mostly composed of nickel-iron with traces of cobalt. The crafting process was started by first crushing a fragment of the meteorite, and then putting in these finer powdered specimens into a 3D Systems ProX DMP 320 3D metal printer. Guided by the complementing software, the printer was then able to fuse the powder in layer-by-layer manner to give form to a solid object. The intricacy of the method was maintained by even removing the excess meteorite powder, thus allowing for an immaculate shape and texture of the resultant 3D spacecraft sculpture.
As for the meteorite in question here, it was sourced from the famed Campo del Cielo, a specific zone 1,000 km (620 miles) northwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Comprising an area of almost 60 sq km, the field contains at least 26 prehistoric craters, with most of them being around 4,000–5,000 years old. Suffice it to say, the location is renowned for profusion of iron-based meteorite fragments (which collectively weigh over 100 tonnes), with the largest piece alone accounting for 37 tonnes – which makes it the second heaviest single-piece meteorite recovered on Earth.
Source: Planetary Resources