JCSAT-110A, formerly known as JCSAT-15, was launched into space in December 2016 at the request of Japan’s SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, a leading satellite operator responsible for most of the country’s paid broadcasting and satellite communication services. The original JCSAT-110 was getting old, so the new satellite was designed to replace it and is expected to last for at least 15 years. This week, Space Systems Loral (SSL), the California-based manufacturer of JCSAT-110A, announced that the satellite has completed its in-orbit testing and is performing as expected.
That’s not the biggest news, though – SSL has also confirmed that JCSAT-110A is equipped with the first antenna tower that the company designed using additive manufacturing and other advanced design and manufacturing methods. The JCSAT-110A launch was also the launch of a new manufacturing era for SSL, which will continue to use advanced design and manufacturing technology in its three-decades-old 1300 Series Satellite Platform.
“SSL is an innovative company that continues to evolve its highly reliable satellite platform with advanced technologies,” said Dr. Matteo Genna, chief technology officer and vice president of Product Strategy and Development at SSL. “Our advanced antenna tower structures enable us to build high performance satellites that would not be possible without tools such as 3D printing.”
The antenna tower installed on JCSAT-110A was designed using a methodology called strut-truss, which has now become the standard for SSL spacecraft, and consists of 37 3D printed titanium nodes and more than 80 graphite struts. Currently, SSL has 13 other strut-truss structures in various stages of design and manufacturing, which will result in the use of hundreds of 3D printed titanium structural components per year.
According to SSL, the use of 3D printing has allowed for an average reduction of 50 percent in both mass and schedule for large, complex structures like satellite antennae. The cost saved by additively manufacturing large structural assemblies is much greater, the company states, than that saved by optimizing individual parts. SSL, which has been in business for more than 50 years, specializes in the design and manufacture of satellites for television, broadband Internet, mobile communications, Earth observation and other functions.
“We would like to thank our customer, SKY Perfect JSAT for partnering with us on this important satellite manufacturing advance,” said Paul Estey, executive vice president, Engineering and Operations at SSL. “This breakthrough in satellite design is an example of SSL’s holistic approach to new technologies and its teamwork with satellite operators that need to maximize their satellites’ capability.”
SSL isn’t alone; many satellite manufacturers have been turning to 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing techniques recently, including major corporations like Boeing. Not only does 3D printing reduce manufacturing costs and time, it has the ability to create more lightweight parts and assemblies – and when it comes to anything going into space, weight equals money. JCSAT-110A was a pilot program, of sorts, but since it was launched into orbit, SSL has completed assembly and testing on several other strut-truss structures and plans to further expand its additive manufacturing program – as well as other advanced manufacturing and design technologies – in the near future. Discuss in the SSL forum at 3DPB.com.[Images: Space Systems Loral]