Astronauts on the International Space Station have used their 3-D printer to make a wrench from instructions sent up in an email.
It is the first time hardware has been “emailed” to space.
Nasa was responding to a request by ISS commander Barry Wilmore for a ratcheting socket wrench.
Previously, if astronauts requested a specific item they could have waited months for it to be flown up on one of the regular supply flights.
Mike Chen, founder of Made In Space, the company behind the 3-D printer, said: “We had overheard ISS Commander Barry Wilmore (who goes by “Butch”) mention over the radio that he needed one, so we designed one in CAD and sent it up to him faster than a rocket ever could have.”
Mr Wilmore installed the printer on the ISS on 17 November. On 25 November he used the machine to fabricate its first object, a replacement part for the printer.
Nasa says the capability will help astronauts be more self-reliant on future long duration space missions.
Mike Chen added: “The socket wrench we just manufactured is the first object we designed on the ground and sent digitally to space, on the fly.
“It also marks the end of our first experiment—a sequence of 21 prints that together make up the first tools and objects ever manufactured off the surface of the Earth.”
The other 21 objects were designed before the 3D printer was shipped to the space station in September on a SpaceX Dragon supply flight.
Analysis: David Shukman, BBC science editor
If a 3D printer can churn out something as useful as a tool in space, what else is possible?
Read more: Nasa emails spanner to space station
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