"As you might imagine on Space Station, whatever they have available on orbit is what they have to use," project leader Niki Werkheiser said. "And just like on the ground, you have parts that break or get lost."
Blueprints can be preloaded onto the 3-D printing hardware, and new files can be uploaded from the ground as well, NASA said.
Space station crew may be able to "make things we've thought of that could be useful" as well as simply replacing old tools, astronaut Timothy "TJ" Creamer said in a YouTube video on the project prepared by NASA and released Monday.
"3-D printing provides us the ability to do our own 'Star Trek' replication right there on the spot," Creamer said in the video
The zero-G-ready 3-D printer could be launched to the ISS in June 2014 on the fifth SpaceX supply mission, NASA said.
Designed by the firm Made In Space, the printer was recently verified to work in zero-G, passing a battery of tests at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
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