The newest iLAuNCH Trailblazer project aims to reduce weight in satellites through the additive manufacturing of lightweight and thermally stable composite structures.
Cost can be a huge barrier for Australian companies to reach low Earth orbit, with payloads billed per kilogram of weight by launch providers. At the same time, structures need to be robust to survive launch and operations in the extreme environments of space.
The Australian National University and New Frontier Technologies will partner to develop a material solution based on carbon fibre.
“This first Materials and Processing commercialisation project will develop protective coatings for carbon composite components that will be deployed in space environments for long durations,” said iLAuNCH Trailblazer Executive Director, Darin Lovett.
“We are developing world-class sovereign manufacturing capability that is cost competitive and utilises the latest advancements in materials; vital for realising the full potential of an Australian space manufacturing industry.”
The project will leverage material research capacity in the Research School of Physics at the Australian National University; including nanomaterials fabrication and characterisation, x-ray computed tomography (CT) imaging, and space testing capability at the Australian Advanced Instrumentation Centre (AITC) at Mt. Stromlo.
“The target applications are satellite structures such as struts, booms and reflectors. The primary aim of the project is the development and validation of carbon-fibre/thermoplastic composite structures for these applications with coatings that provide improved radiation shielding and resistance to atomic oxygen degradation,” said New Frontier Technologies Director and CEO, Paul Compston.
“We will develop coating application methods that are compatible with our automated composites manufacturing technology to produce structures that are lightweight, to help to reduce launch costs, and have added protection once deployed in the harsh space environment.”