May 12, 2014

3D printing has been used to build several parts of the cubesat KySat-2, which was successfully launched on November 19th, 2013 into orbit as part of a NASA mission out of Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Typically, operational lifetime for a CubeSat is around one year due to radiation exposure and damage to the batteries. The KySat-2 will remain operational as long as the team is able to make reliable contact to the satellite. Testing has already begun on the subsystems and the team is hopeful they will be able to take pictures and download them from the spacecraft in the next few weeks.

3D printed parts on the KySat-2 satellite, a 1U CubeSat, were built and tested by students of the University of Kentucky and Morehead University together with Kentucky Space acting as mission manager and coordinator.

Using the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) process, CRP USA together with CRP Technology produced five Windform XT 2.0 parts that are incorporated into the deployable solar panels on the KySat-2; camera annulus, lens cover, deployable extensions, antenna clips, and battery holders. Windform XT 2.0 is a high performance material filled with carbon fiber and offers maximum mechanical performance for 3D printed parts. The material combines maximum toughness and robustness, yet produces an extremely light, final part that doesn't impact the overall production weight of the KySat-2 unit.

3D-printed mounting hardware for camera system built with Windform XT 2.0

"There were several 3d printed components on the KySat-2 made by CRP USA from CRP Technology's proprietary material Windform XT 2.0," explains Twyman Clements, KySat-2 Project Manager, Kentucky Space. "One of the subsystems, is the camera systems that acts as an attitude determination system called Stellar Gyro. The additive manufactured process 3d printed the mounting hardware for the camera system, extensions for the separation switches, clips for holding the antennas in their stowed position, and the mounting bracket for the on board batteries. The process and the material were critical to achieve the right components for KySat-2."

Mounting bracket for the on board batteries built using Windform XT 2.0

KySat-2's main mission is to be an educational tool and demonstration for the students working on the satellite. KySat-2 was designed, built, and tested entirely by students and engineers, with most of the subsystems designed in-house. 35 minutes after deployment from the launch vehicle, KySat-2 began beaconing its telemetry data and was almost immediately heard by amateur radio operators. Since then, the KySat-2 team began performing system checks for each of the various subsystems that make up the satellite. According to the KySat-2 team, all systems have been performing nominally.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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