Sep 26, 2016 | By Alec

Over the last few years, Poland has steadily built up a reputation as a 3D printing pioneer. The country is already home to numerous promising startups, with Zortrax decisively leading the way. But the 3D printing nation could be known for a lot more than just desktop 3D printers in the near future, as a new startup is working on a very ambitious 3D printing project that will provide a huge boost to Polish aerospace efforts: the 3D printed Światowid nanosatellite, which would become the first Polish-made commercial and private satellite. According to developers SatRevolution, the satellite could be ready for launch as early as mid-2017.

It’s an unexpected announcement that seems to be part of an increasingly decentralizing trend within the aerospace sector. Just a decade ago, everyone was heading to Cape Canaveral and Silicon Valley for every aerospace-related project. But in part thanks to the rise of 3D printing, development costs have dropped dramatically – supporting the rise of aerospace startups such as Vector Space Systems (and their 3D printed transportation rocket) and Rocket lab (with their 3D printed Rutherford engine). But small satellites for various research and communication purposes are also high up on this decentralized agenda, and SatRevolution will be representing the Polish aerospace sector in this regard.

But SatRevolution and their 3D printed Światowid are an exception. They are planning to offer satellite services to a market of unprecedented size, targeting state-owned institutes, private enterprises and even just individual users with a passion for astrophysics. “Our goal is to create a solution that will also be available to the greatest number of people. Who among us does not dream of their own nanosatellite?” co-founders Damian Fijałkowski, Grzegorz Zwoliński and Radoslaw Łapczyński said.

Equally remarkable is the fact that this isn’t a startup set up by veteran aerospace engineers. The trio of developers is previously masterminded T-Bull S.A. – a leading Polish company developing games for mobile devices. “Broadly speaking, the subject of these technologies is not only our daily work. It is also our hobby. Many years of experience in business has allowed us to create a separate legal entity whose objective is the development of, among others, solutions in the field of space technology,” Zwoliński said of this sudden switch.

Nonetheless, they were able to secure the support of the Wrocław Research Centre EIT+, the largest research and development institute in the country. The Wrocław institute will act as partner for this aerospace venture, and will provide the research facilities necessary for the development of this satellite. SatRevolution was only founded on June 27. Aside from their 3D printed satellite plans, they will also be developing various products for private and public partners, including international space agencies.

In that respect, the Światowid will partly serve to bring knowledge and innovations to the Polish market, Zwoliński said. But the satellite is remarkable in its own right too. The cuboid model will be 10 x 10 x 20 cm in size, and will be 3D printed in a special aluminum alloy – which will enable the satellite to resist vibrations, cosmic rays and rapid temperature fluctuations (in the range of 150 to 300 degrees Celsius). 3D printing, its developers say, will enable them to optimize the satellite shape while keeping its weight as low as possible.

For energy, the satellite will rely on photovoltaic panels that have been equipped with an advanced opening and positioning system. Światowid will also include a retractable handle equipped with a camera, which will be protected from exterior forces inside the satellite. All electronics will be separately housed to reduce temperature build-up. Specialized magnetic systems will enable satellite stabilization, giving the satellite enough torque to control flight trajectory. All systems aboard the Światowid are being designed to be as light and energy-efficient as possible.

So what will it be used for? While the concept is intended to be as flexible as possible, the Światowid will primarily be a research tool. It will be able to precisely determine its position relative to earth, and can gather data on gravitational and magnetic changes. This and other data will allow researchers right here on earth to better understand the environment in the thermosphere and magnetosphere of our planet.

All in all, it’s a very ambitious yet realistic plan that could provide the local aerospace industry with the boost it needs. The Światowid is scheduled to be launched as early as the second or third quarter of 2017. The launch itself will rely on a new P-POD (Poly-Picosatellite Orbital Deployer) system, that has been purposefully designed for nanosatellites. The Polish entrepreneurs are currently looking to complete funding through the Polish government and several commercial partners.

 

 

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