The company said it has a patent pending on a three-dimensional printer called a “Microgravity Foundry” that uses lasers to deposit nickel in precise patterns in zero gravity.
On Earth, similar printers produce three-dimensional components by depositing layers of nickel metal powder. The process is somewhat like the buildup of ink on paper in a traditional ink jet printer.
Gump said the patent was filed within the past 18 months and is not yet listed in publicly accessible databases.
The ultimate goal is to build a fleet of robotic ships to extract resources for fuel and to mine valuable minerals from asteroids.
“We’re at an early stage,” Gump said. “It’ll probably be 2019 or 2020 before we’ll have commercial quantities of propellant for sale.”