Airbus Defence and Space Ltd
Evolution of existing multi-part bracket to ALM concept for Eurostar spacecraft.
Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise Airbus Defence and Space in UK is now producing its first space qualified aluminium 3D printed components for Eurostar E3000 telecommunications satellites.
Following a two year research and development programme under the National Space Technology Programme, through Innovate UK and the UK Space Agency, the 3D printed components are being developed by the UK team as part of a programme introducing components that cannot be created using conventional manufacturing methods.
One component in particular includes a structural bracket manufactured from aluminium alloy with laser melting. The part weighs 35% less than the previous bracket and has been produced in just one single part in contrast to the four the original bracket required. The bracket is also 40% stiffer than the previous manufactured component, and does not result in waste generated by conventional machining.
The bracket is for mounting the telemetry and telecommand (TMTC) antennas onto the satellite which enable the satellite to communicate with the ground station. The component has successfully completed flight qualification testing and is all set to be flown on a forthcoming satellite.
“Producing the first flight qualified ALM component is a major milestone and the result of two years of great teamwork funded by Innovate UK in partnership with our suppliers,” Amy Glover, Senior Spacecraft Structures Engineer explained. “Through developing and proving the design and manufacturing process, which significantly reduces the testing required, we can now look at what other opportunities there are for ALM components that will be lighter and quicker to manufacture.”
The ALM bracket was manufactured for Airbus Defence and Space by 3T RPD Ltd, a leading production additive manufacturing company based in Newbury specialising in additive manufacturing research and development.
Tim Just, Head of Space at Innovate UK, added: “Space is a vital and growing sector of the UK economy worth over £11bn and employing directly 34,000 people and supporting a further 72,000 jobs. Our unique role in Innovate UK means that we can bring the expertise and learning of the high-value manufacturing to bear in the space sector, creating greater growth. I had the pleasure to present the Innovation award at last year’s Airbus staff awards, which was won by a UK team and it is great to see these ideas turning into commercial reality. We at Innovate UK are determined to maximise the opportunities for companies big and small to build a UK space supply chain and build the new jobs of tomorrow.”
Airbus Defence and Space is continuing with its implementation plans for waveguides, heat pipes, propulsion components, secondary structures and tanks developed with additive manufacturing technology.