Israeli high-tech companies integral part of NASA space mission

Israeli manufacturer Stratasys is providing the 3-D printed seats for the mannequins that will be wearing startup StemRad’s radiation protection vests.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Two Israeli companies are an integral part of NASA’s first mission to the moon in half a century.

The unmanned space flight of the Artemis 1 mission is set to test an array of objects among its various experiments that the U.S. space agency hopes will help it send people to Mars and beyond in the coming decades.

Among them are Tel Aviv-based StemRad’s AstroRad vest, made especially to conform to the female figure. The anti-radiation vest, which covers the upper body, uterus and blood-forming organs, will be worn by “Helga” and “Zohar,” the two mannequins that are taking the place of humans on this trip to outer space.

Germany’s Aerospace Center produced them with materials that imitate real human bones, tissues and organs. Berlin’s space agency is also supplying most of the radiation detectors that will be attached to the vests, to see if hard radiation from space gets through to the internal organs.

NASA is planning to send the first woman and first person of color to the moon by 2025.

AstroRad’s technology has already undergone “on-site” testing. Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe, who became the second Israeli to go to space when he joined the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station in April, brought the vest with him among some three dozen experiments he carried out during his two-week stay.

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The mannequins will be strapped into seats manufactured by Stratasys, a 3D-printer manufacturing company headquartered in Rehovot. Its new thermoplastic material, called Antero, meets NASA’s rigorous standards for strength as well as heat and chemical resistance, while being lighter than those currently being used.

This is important, says Stratsys CEO Dr. Yoav Zeif, because “each reduction of a kilogram saves 14,000 liters of fuel per year,” in both airplanes and spacecraft.

“A change in the production method can create a huge improvement in itself, along with maximizing the mileage that can be obtained from each liter of fuel. When it comes to fuel for the spaceship – this is a critical figure,” he said.

Together with its partners, U.S. giant Lockheed Martin and Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies, Stratasys has also built the docking hatch ring for Artemis I’s Orion deep-space vehicle. Dozens more 3D-printed production-grade parts are already in the works for later missions.

Meanwhile, the launch for Artemis I has been delayed for a third time, after Saturday’s take-off was cancelled due to a hydrogen leak that could not be plugged. The agency said that equipment will need to be replaced, indicating a probable postponement of the mission for at least a few weeks.