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Watch: 3D-Printing Satellites in Space, Diamond Rain on Neptune and Uranus and the Death of the 19-Year-Old Cassini Spacecraft

25 August 2017

3D-Printing Satellites in Space

Two Russian cosmonauts released the first entirely 3D-printed satellite outside the International Space Station last week. The satellite was constructed aboard the habitable artificial satellite that’s 220 miles above Earth’s surface and made possible by space-based manufacturing company, Made in Space. It was created using a high-performance, aerospace-grade polymer PEI/PC that is stronger and more heat-resistant than other 3D-printed polymers, and has a wide variety of applications, including satellite and spacecraft design. The company aims to make the production of satellites in space a common occurrence. This feat expands the design space and makes in-space manufacturing and assembly possible for future missions.

It’s Raining Diamonds

Yes, you heard right. Scientists have created ‘Diamond Rain’ that forms in the interior of Neptune and Uranus. The experiment, conducted by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory was designed to mimic the conditions deep inside the icy giant planets of our solar system. Scientists were able to observe this “diamond rain” for the first time as it formed in high-pressure conditions. Extremely high pressure squeezes hydrogen and carbon found inside these planets to form solid diamonds that sink slowly down into the interior. Since we can’t go inside of a planet and observe it, information from studies like this one about how elements mix and clump together under pressure can change the way scientists calculate the relationship between mass and radius, allowing them to better model and classify planets. The falling diamond rain could also be an additional source of energy, generating heat while sinking toward the core.

The Death of Cassini

After 19 years, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will plunge to its death in Saturn’s atmosphere. Cassini launched back in 1997 on a mission to study the planet, along with its rings and moon. So why does it have to come to an end? According to reports, the craft is low on fuel, which means NASA can no longer steer it and the craft can’t just float in space because it could accidentally crash into Saturn’s moons, causing some serious contamination. Until September 15th, the day of its death, Cassini will continue to maneuver through the planet and its rings into the outermost atmosphere, providing data along the way.

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