Stratasys Ltd.
Eden Prairie, MN

Orion is NASA’s spacecraft that will send astronauts to the Moon and beyond. Orion’s next test flight, dubbed Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), will be the first integration mission with the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, in which an uncrewed Orion will fly thousands of miles beyond the Moon during an approximately three-week mission.

The Orion spacecraft leverages a variant of Stratasys Antero 800NA to build an intricately connected 3D -printed docking hatch door.

The following flight, EM-2, will also fly near the Moon, but with astronauts onboard — a first since 1972 — and will enable NASA to prepare for increasingly complex missions in deep space. The mission will use more than 100 3D-printed production parts onboard, engineered in conjunction with Lockheed Martin Space (Bethesda, MD), Stratasys, and Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies (PADT, Tempe, AZ). Key to the project are Stratasys advanced materials including an ESD variant of Antero™ 800NA, a PEKK-based thermoplastic with high-performance mechanical, chemical, and thermal properties.

The production-grade, thermoplastic 3D-printed parts are produced at the Additive Manufacturing Lab at Lockheed Martin in conjunction with PADT, which now employs Stratasys 3D printers and materials. Using advanced materials such as ULTEM 9085™ resin and Antero material incorporating critical electrostatic dissipative (ESD) functionality, NASA could meet key requirements for 3D-printed parts to perform in the extremes of deep space. Antero is ideally suited to meet NASA’s requirements for heat and chemical resistance, along with the ability to withstand high mechanical loads.

“Working with PADT, Stratasys, and NASA has enabled us to achieve highly consistent builds that move beyond the realm of prototyping and into production,” said Brian Kaplun, Manager of Additive Manufacturing at Lockheed Martin Space. “We’re not just creating parts — we’re reshaping our production strategy to make spacecraft more affordable and faster to produce.”

The Lockheed Martin, Stratasys, and PADT-engineered collaboration is differentiated by an ability to create consistency and repeatability in mass scale across the entire additive manufacturing part production process. Lockheed Martin is also one of the first customers leveraging Stratasys’ Antero, using the new thermoplastic for a critical part situated just outside of Orion’s docking hatch. The complex part consists of six individual 3D-printed components locked together to form a ring on the craft’s exterior.

“The demands of space travel require extremely high-performance materials and the most rigorous manufacturing processes in the industry. Part integrity and repeatability are essential and must pass NASA’s demanding testing and validation process,” said Scott Sevcik, Vice President of Manufacturing at Stratasys. “Based on decades of experience delivering strong and lightweight additive manufacturing solutions for leaders across the aerospace industry, Stratasys technology is ideally suited to match the high-reliability manufacturing processes required for production parts in space exploration.”

Lockheed Martin is one of the first customers leveraging Stratasys’ Antero material, a PEKK-based thermoplastic with advanced mechanical, chemical, and thermal properties.

“It’s exciting to be a part of the Orion mission and Lockheed Martin’s efforts to transition additive manufacturing from prototyping to production,” said Rey Chu, Principal and Co-Owner at PADT. “Additive manufacturing technology and materials have come a long way to become a full-fledged, end-use manufacturing option.”

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