ASX-listed company Kleos Space has announced the signature of a second Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus, as both companies investigate opportunities to collaborate for the in-space manufacture of structural elements.
Kleos Space and parent Magna Parva (UK) have developed an in-space manufacturing system that will provide a method of producing large carbon composite 3D structures in space. A prototype system has been successfully built and tested under ‘near space’ conditions at Kleos’ development facility. It demonstrates the potential for production of assemblies, equipment or even buildings from fully cured and consolidated carbon fibre materials, potentially miles in length.
Kleos Space's robotic technology manufactures 3D space structures using a supply of carbon fibres and a resin that are processed by pultrusion through a heat forming die in a continuous process, producing cured carbon composite elements of extraordinary length. As the resin and materials behave differently in space, the development has included testing under both ambient atmospheric and vacuum conditions.
While pultrusion itself is an established manufacturing process, it has now been miniaturised down to a size where the equipment can be accommodated on spacecraft, and further work is under way to advance the technical readiness of the concept.
The machine allows the fabrication of in-space structures that would be difficult to produce on Earth due to limitations at launch. Current pre-manufactured structures designed to go into space are high in mass and volume and have specific launch environment requirements.
By manufacturing in space, many of these requirements are eliminated, allowing the production and deployment of extremely large composite structures.
Airbus is prospecting in-space manufacturing with a view to developing and accessing the required capabilities in Europe. The company has agreed to support Kleos with guidance and expertise in this capacity, enabling the development of applicable 3D structures.