Aug. 18 (UPI) -- During a lengthy spacewalk on Thursday, Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Sergey Ryazanskiy released five mini satellites by hand, including one made almost entirely of 3D-printed materials.
Some new reports are claiming the satellite is the first built from 3D-printed components to be launched into space, but in June, NASA launched a cube satellite made almost entirely of 3D-printed materials.
NASA claimed the satellite was not only the first 3D-printed satellite launched into space, it was the lightest satellite ever launched, weighing just 64 grams.
The latest satellite launch marks the first time the Russian team has launched a 3D-printed satellite. The mini satellite was designed and built at Siberia's Tomsk Polytechnic University.
Tomsk TPU-120 will spend roughly six months in orbit. Scientists are keen to learn how the 3D-printed materials are weathered by space.
Three-dimensional printing has the potential to save aeronautics and satellite manufacturers time and money.
"We have satellites ready for launch that have 50 to 60 printed parts on them," Mark Spiwak, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International, told reporters during a press conference in March. "We are actively working with our suppliers on complex brackets and fittings that used to be machined parts. There is tremendous progress being made."
Four other nano-satellites were also hand-launched by Yurchikhin and Ryazanskiy, all weighing between 10 and 24 pounds. One of the nano-satellites was launched in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Sputnik 1 launch, the world's first artificial space satellite, as well as the 160th anniversary of the birth of Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a pioneer in the fields of astronautics and rocketry.
During Thursday's spacewalk, the cosmonauts installed a series of struts and handrails outside the Russian module. Yurchikhin and Ryazanskiy also collected fresh dust samples as part of the ongoing effort to monitor microbial communities living on the space station.