Factories in the skies: Space Manufacturing

The space manufacturing industry is no longer a futuristic dream from the bright minds of science fiction writers. With the sky no longer serving as a barrier, new perspectives emerge, offering unique possibilities that were previously unimaginable. Aerospace engineering and advanced technologies made it possible to overcome the challenges of operating in a harsh and complex space environment. These advancements were only attainable with a strong software development team and innovative engineers.

This is a dynamic industry. While the growth has been exponential, it has so much more space to grow and develop. The beauty of going above and beyond is that it holds great promises and opportunities. We already have tackled the space sectors likely to take off and the emerging trends in the New Space era. Now it’s time to see what areas will not only take off but also have the potential for disruptive growth in the third part of our series: Flying High for New Space.

As the industry advances, so do the possibilities and niches for explosive growth. Deloitte’s research has focused on identifying the space industry’s major areas with potential disruptive change. From all the six major areas, this article will focus on those related to space manufacturing.

Many areas have industrial capacities for in-space manufacturing. Industries involved in one or several high-technology value chains ranging from basic research and development to satellite manufacturing. By leveraging the unique environment of outer space, unique possibilities arise.

In-space manufacturing

Once you eliminate the sky as the last barrier to cross, new points of view emerge. Imagine what can become a reality once you enter the unique environment of outer space. Microgravity offers exciting possibilities that couldn’t be found here on Earth. 

In space, microgravity protects materials. This isolation can enable a different process for materials, for example. Metals can be grown into large, single crystals stronger than Earth’s. And the possibilities continue. Semiconductors, the backbone of modern electronics and optical fibers, which are critical components in telecommunication, could be fabricated in the vacuum of space. This process could save energy (by 60%) and improve the process.

There are also hurdles to be considered:

  • The capacity for mass production still needs to improve;
  • The cost of launching;
  • The legal framework needs to be strengthened.

Many other challenges backtrack the process, but this also means that those who first figure it out will be on an ascending trajectory for a long time.

3D space manufacturing

Known under several names, such as 3D printing or additive manufacturing, 3D space manufacturing is a transformative technology that enables the creation of three-dimensional objects by layering materials based on a digital model. This innovative approach to manufacturing has the potential to revolutionize the tech industry and beyond.

The adoption of additive manufacturing in the space sector is already underway. Companies like Relativity Space utilize large metal 3D printers to create fully 3D-printed rockets; NASA has also used 3D printing for manufacturing rocket engine parts.

One significant challenge is ensuring the compatibility of materials used in 3D printing with the harsh space environment, including radiation, vacuum, temperature variations, and microgravity. Additionally, controlling and characterizing printed materials pose technical hurdles.

Robotics in space manufacturing

Robotics technology is crucial in space exploration, enabling remote operation and control of spacecraft, rovers, and other devices for studying celestial bodies.

Advancements in robotics have led to the development of more capable and versatile systems for space exploration.
Robotic rovers like NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers have significantly contributed to Mars’s exploration and scientific study. Robotic arms are also employed on spacecraft and space stations for servicing, maintenance, and assembly tasks.

Examples include NASA’s Canadarm on the Space Shuttle and robotic arms on the International Space Station.

Unlocking Industry Potential with AROBS Engineering

In the pursuit of wandering, you need a knowledgeable partner and a guide with experience to explore safely, knowing that uncertainty is not an option. Not when it comes to space technology.

As a seasoned provider of top-notch software and engineering solutions, AROBS Engineering has the expertise and experience to assist companies in navigating challenges and capitalizing on opportunities within the space industry.

Having worked closely with ESA for over a decade, we possess extensive knowledge and the necessary certifications to ensure high-quality results. We will accelerate your space ventures and contribute to your success in this dynamic and demanding field.

Reach out to us today, and unlock new horizons of success tomorrow.

Stay tuned as we prepare the 4th article in this series.

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