Dec 20, 2016 | By Tess

High-performance satellite developer Millennium Space Systems recently announced it has completed its very first ALTAIR satellite and is preparing to ship it into space. The preproduction satellite, the ALTAIR Pathfinder, has been developed for the specific purpose of demonstrating technologies such as additive manufacturing, advanced avionics, guidance and control, power systems, RF communications, and onboard processing technologies within space.

The ALTAIR Pathfinder is expected to launch into space on an International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission. The latter will launch from Cape Canaveral in March 2017. Once it reaches the ISS, Millennium Space Systems says the satellite will be kept on board the space station for 30 to 60 days before being released.

Impressively, and according to Jimmy Downs, the chief engineer for the ALTAIR Pathfinder, the satellite took less than 12 months to develop, from program inception to final ship date. This was achieved with the help of Houston-based NanoRacks LLC, which is providing launch services. As Downs commented, “Special thanks go to our NanoRacks launch provider–they've been nothing short of being responsive and helpful every step of the way since we signed the launch services agreement earlier this year.”

The ALTAIR Pathfinder was largely developed in order to test and demonstrate “next-generation hardware and software technologies”, which include additive manufacturing, advanced avionics, power systems, and more. These new technologies have opened up the possibility for new types of missions in space. That is, technologies such as 3D printing in space are helping to overcome certain challenges that previously existed, such as expensive costs of shipping parts into space, schedule limitations, and technology unavailability.

With its recent flight qualification, the ALTAIR Pathfinder could mark big advancements for new space technologies. As Paul Swanson, Millennium Space’s LEO (low-earth-orbit) constellations program manager explained, “This flight qualification of our ALTAIR™ spacecraft represents a key milestone in providing low-risk and very high-platform performance coupled with affordability as the company transitions to full-scale manufacturing of our ALTAIR™ product line and anticipated ALTAIR™ constellations."

He continues: “Our manufacturing and production plan is in place to deliver hundreds of these vehicles each year. We have taken great measures to ensure that our spacecraft will work as designed through a series of environmental and functional tests culminating in our Pre-Ship Readiness Review and decision to ship the vehicle this week. As we transition to high-volume production of these vehicles in our state-of-the-art spacecraft factory, ALTAIR™ provides the underpinnings to support resiliency, affordability, persistence and high-tech refresh, thereby enabling tailored constellations fielded quickly, effectively and affordably.”

Founded in 2001, Millennium Space Systems has continually proposed and developed innovative and alternative solutions to the aerospace industry’s many challenges. Often working with the Department of Defense, NASA, and various commercial clients, Millennium Space Systems hopes to further advance new technologies, such as additive manufacturing, within space with the upcoming launch of its ALTAIR Pathfinder satellite.

Final preparation of the ALTAIR Pathfinder

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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