Zenith Tecnica, an AS9100-certified contract manufacturer based in Auckland, New Zealand, reports that it successfully additively manufactured critical titanium components used in NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, launched on October 13, 2023. The titanium node parts, produced using Electron Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-EB), are used to connect the carbon composite tubes in the solar electric propulsion chassis of the spacecraft.
Following its successful launch, the spacecraft is now travelling to its namesake, the asteroid Psyche, a journey of more than two-billion miles. Asteroid Psyche’s gravity will capture the spacecraft in late July 2029 and Psyche will begin its prime mission in August, explains NASA. It will spend around two years orbiting the asteroid to take pictures, map the surface, and collect data to determine Psyche’s composition.
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The body of the Psyche spacecraft is about the size of a small van, and is powered by solar electric propulsion. It has a magnetometer, a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer, and a multispectral imager to study asteroid Psyche. The spacecraft will start sending images to Earth as soon as it spots the asteroid.
Scientists believe asteroid Psyche, which is about 173 miles (280 km) at its widest point, could be part, or all, of the iron-rich core of a planetesimal, a building block of a rocky planet. Alternatively, it could be the leftover piece of a completely different kind of iron-rich body that formed from metal-rich material somewhere in the solar system.
Designed by satellite manufacturer Maxar Space Systems, the Ti6Al4V node components, with their complex geometries, are particularly well-suited to the Additive Manufacturing process. The design follows Maxar’s proven track record of utilising strut-truss structures in space applications.
“The team at Zenith Tecnica is ecstatic to see the successful launch of Psyche and enjoyed working with the Maxar Space Systems’ engineering team on this project,” stated Peter Sefont, Technical Director, Zenith Tecnica. “We are proud to have played a small role in making this mission happen and wish the Psyche team all the best with the next phases of the mission.”