Airbus Used Robotics and 3D Printing Technology to Build Record-Breaking Fully Electric Satellite

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Due to the freedom of form and reduced production time, cost, and weight that 3D printing offers, many industries, including the aerospace sector, make good use of the technology in their workflows. Airbus in particular has adopted metal 3D printing to make nozzles and drilling templates, a hydraulic component, and other titanium parts for aircraft; it even used the technology to enhance the production of a satellite RF filter. We often see 3D printing used to make satellite components, like brackets, casings, housings, and antennas, and even the satellite itself.

Recently, Airbus used multiple technologies, including 3D printing, to build a fully electric EUTELSAT 172B spacecraft for satellite operator Eutelsat, which was founded in 1977 and is headquartered in Paris. The new EUTELSAT 172B telecommunications satellite has achieved a major milestone – it has broken the record for fastest satellite electric orbit raising (EOR) by reaching geostationary orbit, which is a circular orbit nearly 36,000 km above the equator that follows the direction of the Earth’s rotation.

The high capacity satellite reached geostationary orbit just four months after it was launched on June 1st by Ariane 5 from Kourou, in French Guiana.

“We are the first company to demonstrate full electric propulsion for satellites of this size and capacity, enabling their launch in the most cost-efficient manner,” said Nicolas Chamussy, Head of Space Systems at Airbus. “Furthermore, with our system design, operation strategy and the plasma thruster technology we implement, we have completed the fastest electric orbit raising ever from transfer to geostationary orbit, which will allow Eutelsat to put their electric satellite in service in a record time.”

EUTELSAT 172B is now in GEO

? How cool is this??Our EUTELSAT 172B satellite has now reached geostationary orbit, breaking the record of the fastest satellite electric orbit raising. It will soon get to work to empower clients across the Asia-Pacific region with a diverse set of applications ranging from in-flight and maritime connectivity to corporate networks, also providing video, data and government services.More on this milestone: ow.ly/TVid30fNjVc

Posted by Eutelsat SA on miércoles, 11 de octubre de 2017

The EUTELSAT 172B has 13kW of payload power, but a launch mass of only 3,550 kg, due to the latest EOR version of the Eurostar E3000 platform by Airbus, which also features a 3D printed part. This new record was possible thanks to some additional innovations by Airbus, including 3D printing technology and its Wide Angle Localisation Integrated System (WALIS) network of worldwide ground stations, which made it possible for engineers to control the EUTELSAT 172B’s orbit raising operations until it reached the geostationary orbit. In addition, a pair of deployable robotic arms helped to orientate the satellite’s electric propulsion thrusters; this made it possible to control thrust direction and attitude.

Electric propulsion, May 18, 2017 [Image: Airbus]

In Toulouse, the Airbus spacecraft control center was in charge of early operations, as well as deployment of the solar array and electric propulsion arms. The center finished initial testing before it began the EOR phase in June, and during the four-month period after the EUTELSAT 172B was launched, its electric thrusters efficiently propelled the satellite to orbit, “consuming almost six times less propellant mass than for a satellite with chemical propulsion.”

Once the EUTELSAT 172B finishes payload in-orbit tests and drifts to its operational location, the satellite should begin commercial service next month, in order to offer the Asia-Pacific region better telecommunications, as well as in-flight broadband and broadcast services.

“EUTELSAT 172B confirms the relevance of Eutelsat’s early adoption of electric propulsion technology to optimise capex. In combining electric propulsion, High Throughput capacity, robotic arms and 3D printing techniques, our new satellite also reflects Europe’s capability to push the envelope of innovation in order to increase the competitiveness of our business,” said Yohann Leroy, Eutelsat’s Chief Technical Officer. “We look forward to bringing EUTELSAT 172B into service next month for our clients in the Asia-Pacific region.”

EUTELSAT 172B [Image: Airbus Defence and Space]

According to Eutelsat, the EUTELSAT 172B satellite has three distinct payloads, including trans-Pacific C-band, regular Ku-band, and an innovative High Throughput Ku-band payload designed for in-flight broadband with multiple user spots; the Panasonic Avionics Corporation has chosen the satellite as its new platform for in-flight broadband and live TV services for commercial airlines for trans-Pacific and Asian flights.

Due to its electric propulsion for in-orbit raising and station-keeping, the satellite, built with 3D printing, robotics, and electric propulsion technologies, should last over 15 years in space. Together with the space agencies of other European countries, particularly France by the CNES in its PIA program (Plan d’Investissements d’Avenir) framework and the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency (ESA) supported the development of Airbus’ Eurostar all-electric satellites.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com, or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below. 

 

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