Nov 30, 2017 | By Tess

The first ever fully 3D printed satellite to be launched from the International Space Station (ISS) has successfully completed its mission. The satellite, called Tubesat-POD (or TuPOD, for short), was developed through a collaboration between GAUSS, Teton Aerospace (Tetonsys), CRP USA, and JAXA.

(Image: JAXA / NASA)

The 3D printed TuPOD was created as a solution for launching TubeSats (compact cylindrical-shaped satellites from the ISS). As TubeSats were not compatible with the ISS’ CubeSat deployer platform (P-POD), the challenge arose to design a launching pod that could hold and release at least two TubeSats.

The TuPOD was specifically conceived of by Italian company GAUSS (Group of Astrodynamics for the Use of Space Systems) and California-based Tetonsys, which were approached by a team of Brazilian students seeking a launch solution for its TANCREDO-1 TubeSat.

(Image: Tetonys)

After much development and testing, the TuPOD was ultimately 3D printed from CRP USA’s Windform XT 2.0 carbon reinforced composite material. The satellite was produced by Tetonsys and GAUSS with support from both CRP USA and Moreheard State University (MSU) which helped prepare it for launch.

Windform XT 2.0, which is part of CRP USA’s family of high performance Windform materials, was reportedly a crucial element to successfully creating the TuPOD satellite device, largely because of its conductive properties and its ability to be machined post-printing. Though originally developed for motorsport applications, Windform XT 2.0 apparently has the potential to be used for aerospace projects.

(Images: GAUSS (left), Tetonys (right))

“Using Windform XT 2.0 material in the 3D manufacturing of TuPOD was one of the best decisions we have made,” explained Amin Djamshidpour, co-Founder of Tetonsys. “During the prototyping phase and even the final manufacturing, we got into multiple situations that we needed to drill the part or make small modifications to the 3D printed structure and working with Windform XT 2.0 gave us the ability to do so.”

Once the TuPOD was equipped with the TANCREDO-1 as well as the OSNSAT TubeSat, which was developed by the Open Space Network, it was scheduled to be sent up to space as part of JAXA’s JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD), which itself was launched into space aboard the KOUNOTORI 6 autonomous space craft.

Once the craft had reached the space station, the TuPOD was subsequently launched from the ISS through JAXA’s KIBO experimental module.

(Image: GAUSS)

Within 83 hours of its launch from the ISS, the TuPOD successfully deployed its two TubeSats and transmitted a beacon signal for four days until its “primary mission was complete and the primary batteries depleted.” Since then, sources say the 3D printed satellite launcher has fallen out of orbit and has burned up safely upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, as planned.

“TuPOD mission was scheduled to work up to one week, and it worked more than the expected time,” said Chantal Cappelletti, Project Manager GAUSS. “Since the system was not equipped with solar cells, it was impossible to survive more than a few days. We can consider the TuPOD mission itself a great success since it sent message for more time than expected.”

(Image: JAXA / NASA)

The mission not only marks the first time a fully 3D printed satellite has completed a launch mission from the ISS, but also the first time that TubeSats have been successfully launched into space. The TuPOD is the first launching device for TubeSats.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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