Delivering supplies to astronauts in space is kinda tricky. So NASA is sending a 3-D printer to the International Space Station next year, to test whether the technology can work in microgravity. If it does, the ISS will get a permanent printer in 2015, so it can make things like replacement parts and tools, the Scientific American reports. The agency recently released an awkwardly-narrated video explaining the project on YouTube. "3-D printing provides us the ability to do our own Star Trek replication right there on the spot," says an astronaut in the clip.
A company called Made in Space says it has developed "the first 3-D printer that is essentially gravity independent" for the mission. Once on the ISS, astronauts will test the new printer by making imitations of actual parts used on board. "The main goal of this project is to identify not only how the printer reacts when exposed to long-duration microgravity but also to determine if the materials change when being built in that environment," says Made in Space's lead engineer. In related news, shares in two 3-D printer companies shot up 5% and 8% today when a Citigroup analyst made a prediction that the market for the printers will triple within five years, reports MarketWatch.