The NASA Ames Research Center (NASA Ames) Center Chief Technologist (CCT) Office sponsors the Advanced Digital Materials and Manufacturing for Space (ADMMS) Initiative, which focuses on advanced manufacturing technologies for space, including identifying several target products, areas and applications, approaches for advanced manufacturing, mechanisms for collaboration, and complementary facilities. The pilot project for this initiative is the Multi-Purpose Avionics Core Element (M-PACE). The primary goal of M-PACE is to demonstrate advanced manufacturing techniques, such as additive manufacturing and Digital Materials, to minimize the cost of cube satellites and increase their modularity. M-PACE will be designed and built at the NASA Ames’ SpaceShop, which is a state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facility built for NASA researchers to formulate ideas for projects.
The final products of M-PACE are several completed side panels of a one-unit (1U) (10 cm cube) cube satellite prototype built using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, which will show the basic functionality of the internal payload by connecting it to the side panels for power and other subsystem capabilities. Within the structure, we are investigating the use of Digital Materials, which are universal building materials with the ability to increase precision and ease of assembly and disassembly of three dimensional (3D) objects. M-PACE will use COTS power systems and open-source hardware and software to distribute data through Ethernet through the use of snap-fit card connectors. Similar to Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) Express cards, we envision the spacecraft subsystems and payloads to be on a PC104-like board that will slide into the side panel connectors to enable distribution of power and data. This design has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of Cube Satellite testing and integration due to the absence of wires and ease of access to internal boards for any necessary modifications.