In today’s world, we use 3D printing for all sorts of things. From hearing aids to houses, there isn’t anything we won’t attempt to create thanks to rapid prototyping technology.

One company is taking 3D printing to new heights – out of this world, to be exact. Rocket Lab, a SpaceX startup, successfully launched a rocket into orbit which had engines that were entirely 3D printed.

The engine that Rocket Lab used on its Electron rocket was printed in less than 24 hours and provides greater efficiency and performance advantages over other systems.

Because of this, 3D printing is expected to become a major element in future space exploration. The ability to make extremely lightweight parts can lead to enormous advantages when it comes to creating more economically sensible products.

Another aeronautics company, Boeing, has begun using micro-lattice –the lightest metal ever made—to take 3D printing to the extreme and creating mechanically sound structures that are 99% air. Not all 3D printing techniques can achieve this kind of result, but even the most minimal weight savings can lead to tremendous benefits when it comes to aircraft engineering.

Following this trend, engineers predict that 3D printers will find a major use in space travel itself. There is even a 3D printer on the International Space Station. If something breaks, engineers can send technical drawings to the space station to print the replacement part.

3D printing is going to change the future of manufacturing. It will play a critical role in space travel, and one day we may even see a 3D printed aircraft.