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Thales uses advanced production techniques for satellite antennas

Advanced production techniques have reached a level mature enough to be used in space travel. Thales Alenia Space, an aerospace company, sees the benefits and is working together with Sirris. A test project for antenna systems looks encouraging.

In aerospace there is no room for half-finished products. Production precision requirements are extremely high. At the same time, the parts and components to be produced are nearly always unique. The advanced manufacturing methods emerging today are encouraging. Thales Alenia Space, which actively develops and produces a range of space systems, realises this too. Three phases are distinguished in its new project on ‘advanced manufacturing methods’. First, existing components are copied using an advanced manufacturing method. Second, the parts are manufactured in accordance with the requirements for the application in question. Third, within the project the focus is shifted to developing components at subsystem level.

Antenna

A concrete example in this project is the development of a system to mount antennas on satellites. The aim is to design a support on which two antennas can be mounted. In addition, it must also be light and very rigid. Topology optimisation (weight and rigidity) and production via laser beam melting are two of the advanced manufacturing techniques which – thanks to the advisory role played by Sirris – have been applied in this pilot project. The initial results are encouraging.