In-Space Manufacturing And Assembly Enables Small Satellites With Big Satellite Power And Capability
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif., July 16, 2018 — Made In Space, Inc. is developing power systems for small satellites that will provide large satellite power, which in turn, enables small satellites to provide large satellite capability.
Current small satellites are typically constrained to 1 kilowatt of power or less. The power system being developed can initially provide up to five kilowatts of solar power and is enabled by Made In Space’s Archinaut in-space manufacturing and assembly technology.
“These systems enable power intensive payloads to be deployed to space at a fraction of the cost of larger satellites, with no sacrifice in power provisioning,” said Andrew Rush, CEO of Made In Space.
Archinaut-based solar array systems utilize space-manufactured structures and robotically assembled state of the art solar cell blankets to provide up to 20 square meters of solar array for small satellites that launch from ESPA rings or small launch vehicles (in the 150-300 kg class).
“Despite advances in avionics and payload packaging, small satellites provide less capability per kilogram than their larger brethren because small satellites are power constrained. This often prevents power intensive science, remote sensing, communications, and defense payloads which otherwise fit,” Rush said. “Deploying these power intensive payloads on small satellites is game changing because these platforms costs an order of magnitude less to build and launch and can be fielded much more rapidly than 1,000+ kilogram satellites.”
The Archinaut power system is now possible due to the advancements in additive manufacturing and robotics Made In Space has accomplished over the last decade.
“The technology risk is very low,” Rush said. “The core additive manufacturing technology currently operating in space and the extended structure manufacturing and robotic system hardware demonstrated in thermal vacuum chambers simulating the LEO environment.”
Made In Space has been using additive manufacturing on the International Space Station since 2014, operating multiple generations of manufacturing systems on orbit and building over 150 objects in space. The company’s extended structure additive manufacturing technology (ESAMM) is crucial to efficient in-space manufacturing and assembly operations due to its ability to make structures significantly longer than itself, or the accompanying robotic systems. In 2017, this technology won a Guinness World Record for the longest 3D printed structure measuring at 37.7 meters. ESAMM was successfully operated in a thermal vacuum chamber simulating the Low Earth Orbit environment.
“We continue to develop these technologies, planning more complex thermal vacuum and laboratory tests focusing on more complex and autonomous manufacturing and assembly operations,” said Rush.
For small satellites, Archinaut’s power system is able to provide up to five times the power of state of the art systems by launching the system with raw material and tightly-packed solar arrays, rather than folded up booms and complex deployment mechanisms. On orbit, Archinaut manufactures the core array lattice structures and robotically, physically and electrically, integrates solar array blankets, completing the solar array wing.
“Due to the volume and mass efficiencies of manufacturing the structure, a small satellite such as a 150 kg ESPA-class satellite could be deployed with 5 kW of power. Today, that kind of power is only available on 1,000+ kg satellite buses launching on rockets costing tens of millions of dollars,” said Rush.
Archinaut’s power system is expected to enable many large satellite applications on small satellites. Whether it’s a commercial company seeking to get to market quicker, a defense group upgrading its assets more rapidly, or scientists striving to deploy Moon mapping systems for future human exploration missions, reducing development time, build cost, and launch cost is valuable.
Archinaut’s power system can also operate as a standalone system integrated into larger satellite buses, gaining more efficiency in larger systems.
For example, preliminary studies indicate that a 500-kW Archinaut power system using modern solar cell blankets requires 2,000 m² of solar array surface area and has a system mass of 1,000 kg – more than an order of magnitude less mass than systems currently on orbit. For comparison, the International Space Station’s (ISS) eight solar array wings have a total area of roughly 2,500 m² with a system mass of 65,000 kg.
“Because the Archinaut system uses in space manufacturing and robotics, the same core technology will be useful for a range of spacecraft missions,” said Rush. “It can also be used for a range of impactful applications beyond power systems, such as creating large apertures or spacing out sensors from one another.”
About Made In Space:
Made In Space, Inc. (MIS) is the industry leader for space manufacturing technologies, delivering next-generation capabilities in orbit to support exploration objectives and national security priorities. As the first commercial company to additively manufacture in space, MIS is advancing the commercial space economy through its expansive technology portfolio. With a focus on industrializing the space environment, MIS specializes in on-orbit manufacturing, space enabled materials development and exploration manufacturing technology. With offices in Florida, California, Alabama, and Ohio, MIS is empowering an elite workforce and domestic supplier base to realize the company vision of sustainably building off-Earth manufacturing capabilities to enable the future of space exploration. For more information about Made In Space, visit www.madeinspace.us.