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Design of the Week: New Horizons

This week’s selection is NASA’s 3D model of their New Horizons spacecraft. 

It is totally appropriate to select New Horizons now, as this week the spacecraft’s mission truly begins after an incredible nine-year voyage across billions of kilometers of cold, empty space to the former planet Pluto. (If you hadn’t heard, Pluto was demoted to “dwarf planet” status by official astronomical committees in 2006.) 

The 3D model is composed of several pieces, as the geometry of the spacecraft would be problematic to print directly: it has multiple and severe overhangs. Breaking the model into parts also permits printing larger scale versions of the spacecraft. 

Our approach was simply to print the parts on a relatively small scale to see how well the model prints. As you can see, it is easily printed, even on a single print job. Our sample here took only 44 minutes to complete all components. 

The parts must be glued together. NASA recommends using 0.5” wooden dowels to join the parts together, for which appropriately-sized holes appear in the model. However, their default model sizing is quite large, so we scaled it down considerably. The half inch wooden dowels are no longer valid when you resize the model, but we found superglue works just as well. 

Just don’t touch the protruding Radioactive Thermal Generator (RTG)! No, it’s not actually radioactive; but it is attached in a delicate manner. Don’t break it off! 


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