Airbus has been selected by the European Commission to study spacecraft production in space under the Horizon 2020 Program.
The PERIOD (PERASPERA In-Orbit Demonstration) project focuses on orbit satellite assembly and production. This € 3 million A / B1 phase contract will last two years to continue with a demonstrator in orbit.
The "Orbit Factory" that PERIOD will bring to life will lead the construction of main components such as antenna reflectors, assembly of spacecraft components and direct replacement of satellite payloads in space.
This will lead to the future production of large structures in orbit. Manufacturing in direct orbit will revolutionize how space systems are designed, built and operated. It has significant advantages over the traditional approach where everything is manufactured on Earth and then transported into space, because there will be no restrictions and launch requirements for products built in space. (Launcher mass and volume limitations, structural strength to withstand launch)
To achieve this goal, Airbus Defense and Space leads a team of seven innovative Europeans at Bremen, who combine their expertise in areas such as robotics operations, virtual reality and in-space assembly: DFKI, EASN-TIS, GMV, GMV-SKY , ISISPACE, SENER Aeroespacial and Space Applications Services.
PERIOD will demonstrate the value of service, production and assembly in space with its superior capabilities, and with this capacity, it will help to develop capacity and industrial infrastructure to put Europe at the forefront of in-orbit service and production. PERIOD will encourage future research, create new market opportunities, and lead to business and growth in forward-looking technologies.
The future space factory, as well as the demonstrator, could be launched into orbit by a launcher, then activated and started production freely in orbit. The ISP infrastructure can be used for an alternative operating mission that offers more flexibility and a lower cost.
Silvio Sandrone, Head of Airbus Space Research Project, said: “Airbus has been working on in-orbit manufacturing technologies for over a decade and the PERIOD program will help take Europe's technology-combined know-how to the next level. Future large-scale space systems can only be manufactured and assembled in orbit, so it is critical that Europe is at the forefront of this key capability.
Airbus teams, in a project funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), including Metal3D, the first metal 3D printer to be deployed in space next year, and the MANTOS project, which showcases robotics and artificial intelligence-based assembly operations with the support of the German Space Agency (DLR). The series participated in the space research program.