Two 3D printing companies have been chosen by the ESA-funded Accelerator to further develop in-orbit manufacturing.

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Satellite Applications Catapult, a leading organization in the space industry, has announced the inclusion of two 3D printing companies, Photocentric and Deployables Cubed (DCUBED), in its high-tier In-orbit Manufacturing Accelerator (IMA). The IMA is a 12-month program funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and sponsored by ESA’s Business in Space Growth Network (BSGN) Industry Accelerator program. It aims to accelerate the development of new in-orbit infrastructures and services within the Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) economy.

The IMA collaborates with Photocentric and DCUBED, utilizing their expertise and multidisciplinary capabilities to mitigate technology development risks. This collaboration paves the way for in-orbit demonstrations and the commercialization of new methods. Hamid Soorghali, the Programme Lead for In-orbit Manufacturing Accelerator at the Satellite Applications Catapult, emphasizes the significance of including Photocentric and DCUBED in the accelerator, as it strengthens the European space industry and advances in-orbit manufacturing capabilities.

Photocentric is currently focused on developing CosmicMaker, an LCD-based 3D printer designed for use in space stations. This printer has the capability to produce complex Silicon Carbide parts, thereby revolutionizing space manufacturing. Through collaboration with the ESA’s IMA, Photocentric aims to explore opportunities in the space sector, transfer its precision manufacturing expertise, and adapt its innovations for various in-orbit applications.

On the other hand, DCUBED is working on advancing its robotic extrusion system to aid in the production of large space structures in a vacuum. By partnering with the IMA, DCUBED aims to enable expansive infrastructure projects in space and manufacture large modular structures in orbit, which will enhance performance and efficiency.

This collaboration between the IMA, Photocentric, and DCUBED represents a significant step towards the advancement of in-orbit manufacturing capabilities and strengthens the emerging segment of the European space industry.

In the broader context of 3D printing advancements in the aerospace sector, other companies are also making significant contributions. Orbital Composites, an in-space manufacturing startup, secured a $1.7 million U.S. Space Force contract for In-space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM) antenna development. This funding will support the transformation of Satellite-Based Cellular Broadband (SBCB) and Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) applications for global internet access and clean energy.

Skyrora, an Edinburgh-based rocket manufacturer, successfully conducted full-duration testing of its updated 3D printed 70kN rocket engine design. This engine, produced with Skyprint 2 3D printers, boasts reduced production times and costs. Skyrora’s achievement is a remarkable milestone within its ESA contract for the Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Programme, known as Boost.

These advancements in 3D printing and in-orbit manufacturing technology reflect the progress being made in the space industry. By embracing innovative approaches and collaborating with key players in the sector, organizations like the IMA, Photocentric, DCUBED, Orbital Composites, and Skyrora are poised to shape the future of space exploration and infrastructure development.

The future of 3D printing in the UK and Europe looks bright, with potential to bolster supply chains and drive growth in the space sector. But what does the next decade hold for additive manufacturing? What engineering challenges will need to be overcome?

To stay informed about the latest news in 3D printing, make sure to subscribe to the 3D Printing Industry newsletter or follow them on Twitter and Facebook. And while you’re at it, why not subscribe to their Youtube channel as well? They feature discussions, debriefs, video shorts, and webinar replays that will keep you up to date with all things 3D printing.

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The featured image in this blog post showcases the European Space Agency logo, highlighting the potential for collaboration between the space sector and 3D printing technologies.

By staying informed and being proactive about the future of 3D printing, we can help drive innovation and tackle the engineering challenges that lie ahead. Together, we can shape the future of additive manufacturing in the next ten years.

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