Airbus Defence and Space in the UK has produced its first space qualified aluminium 3D printed components following a two year research and development programme under the National Space Technology Programme.
One of the components is a structural bracket for Eurostar E3000 telecommunications satellites manufactured from aluminium alloy. The bracket is for mounting the telemetry and telecommand (TMTC) antennas onto the satellite and has successfully completed flight qualification testing. It is reported as being ready to be flown on a forthcoming satellite.
The bracket is a single piece laser melted part weighing 35% less than the previous bracket which comprised of four parts and 44 rivets. The Additive Layer Manufactured (ALM) bracket is also 40% stiffer than the previous manufactured component and does not result in waste generated by conventional machining.
Amy Glover, Senior Spacecraft Structures Engineer responsible for the project, stated, “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. 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 production Additive Manufacturing company based in Newbury, UK.
“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,” stated Tim Just, Head of Space at Innovate UK.
Airbus Defence and Space added that it is continuing with its implementation plans for ALM waveguides, heat pipes, propulsion components, secondary structures and tanks.
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