Oct 12, 2015 | By Kira

Thales Alenia Space today announced that their Koreasat 5A and 7 tele-communications satellites, currently under construction, will include the largest 3D printed spacecraft parts ever made in Europe. Created with a process known as “power bed additive manufacturing,” the telemetry and command antenna supports will measure roughly 45 x 40 x 21cm and be made from aluminium. Such big parts require a big 3D printer, and so Thales Alenia Space uses the Concept Laser Xline 1000R, the largest laser beam melting machine in Europe. The machine belongs to Poly-Shape, a French company and partner of Thales Alenia Space, and was able to produce both parts in the same batch.

According to Thales, the two 3D printed parts feature an innovative bio-design and have already passed their vibration acceptance test, demonstrating “perfectly reproducible dynamic behaviour”. Compared to traditional manufacturing techniques, the use of the power bed additive manufacturing process and 3D printing technology afforded them significant savings at all levels. That includes 22% weight savings, 30% cost savings, a decrease in the production schedule of around one to two months, and higher performance for the parts themselves.

The Concept Laser Xline 1000R 3D printer

A key European player in space telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation and orbital infrastructures, Thales Alenia Space works with several countries to expand their industrial capabilities and space programs, and has steadily been increasing their use of additive manufacturing and robotics in order to lead the way in technological innovation. The Koreasat 5A and 7 satellites are being built for the Korean satellite service operator KT Sat, a subsidiary of KT Corporation. They will provide internet access, multimedia, broadcasting and fixed communications services.

While the use of 3D printing to produce these incredibly large spacecraft parts is new, these types of antenna supports have been in place since April 2015 on the TurkmenAlem satellite, also built by Thales Alenia Space, and have proven to be effective. Other spacecrafts, including the Arabsat 6B satellite to be launched from the Guinana Space Center, and an F-1 rocket engine from NASA also contain 3D printed parts (in fact, as we have seen in the past few moths, NASA has shown a persistent interest in 3D printing technology that shows no signs of slowing). It is yet another clear sign that when it comes to the future of aerospace, unammed aerial devices and mankind's exploration into space itself, 3D printing will have a major role to play.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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