OHB’s ESA contract for 3D-printed satellite components

Prototype of a 3D-printed telescope housing made of aluminium © TNO

OHB System AG, a subsidiary of space and technology group OHB SE, has received funding under the European Space Agency (ESA) General Support Technology Program for the development of 3D printing technology for fabricating structural and payload components for satellites. In performing this activity, OHB will be supported by its project partners, the Fraunhofer Institute for Additive Production Technologies IAPT, the software company Altair Engineering and cbprocess GmbH. Within the project OHB will develop design and qualification guidelines that will serve as the basis for implementing 3D-printed parts for structural and payload components of satellites. The project commenced in October 2018 and will run for two-and-a-half years.

The new design options make it possible to engineer components that are ideally suited for withstanding the loads arising during launch and operation in space. 3D printing also offers scope for combining several parts to form a single component and reducing interfaces. Optimized design enables to reduce the mass of the component, and as a result that of the spacecraft.

OHB has been exploring this technology for more than five years. In current projects it is already working on 3D printing solutions to develop components for optical instruments from aluminum and titanium, mechanisms made of steel and structural components made of metal-coated high-performance polymers. Under this ESA contract, OHB will be expanding its engineering skills in this technology. OHB will be establishing a strategic network for the production and inspection of 3D printed parts so that printed satellite components and instruments can be deployed in future missions.