Satellites that are manufactured and assembled in orbit could let you launch your own armchair science project or just experience the effect of seeing Earth from above

Assembled by astronauts
Assembled by astronauts

NASA

IT’S A Thursday night and you’re bored, so you launch an app on your smartphone. A crisp view of Earth as seen from space pops up, and you start flying around. Moments later, your friend logs on and joins you in formation. But this isn’t a video game – you’re piloting a real spacecraft.

This vision is pie in the sky for now, but it could be possible in the near future thanks to efforts bringing manufacturing and consumer services to orbit, enabled by 3D printing, robotics and virtual reality. Welcome to 400 kilometres up, where business is booming.

“We want people to be thinking they can actually use space. It’s not just for governments and billion-dollar companies,” says Brad Kohlenberg of Made In Space, a Californian firm building 3D printers for use in …

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