Home Applications & Case Studies 3D printing technology drives innovation in satellite construction

3D printing technology drives innovation in satellite construction

On February 3, 2024, the SmartSat-2A mission, also known as “Jiagao Science and Technology Innovation No. 1”, reached an important milestone when it was successfully launched into space by a Smart Dragon3 launch vehicle of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

The satellite, which was launched near Yangjiang, Guangdong, reached its intended orbit without a hitch. The deployment of its solar panels and two-dimensional phased array antennas for in-space radar studies marked the beginning of a successful mission.

This mission underscores Smart Satellite’s ability to independently develop satellites weighing over 200 kilograms with X-band SAR payloads. This positions the company as a leader in China’s aerospace industry with integrated capabilities in satellite and radar payload design.

A key factor in the success of the SmartSat-X1A mission was the use of metal 3D printing technology. This made it possible to produce large, complex structural components for use in the aerospace sector with greater ease and agility. In particular, the production of the satellite body and three array panel structures by BLT, all manufactured using metal 3D printing, demonstrates the strength of this technology. China’s largest in-orbit 3D-printed satellite structure is impressive in its dimensions and the use of AlSi10Mg material, which is designed for large-area lattice skin structures with a wall thickness and lattice filament diameter of just 0.5 mm.

The challenges of manufacturing large-area panel-type skin grid components were overcome by careful process optimization and the parallel use of two BLT-S1000 printing systems. This contributed significantly to the success of the mission and underlines the role of 3D printing technology as a catalyst for innovation in the aerospace sector.

The importance of BLT’s innovative metal additive manufacturing solutions is growing with the increasing demand for high-performance components in the aerospace industry. The scalability and precision of large format multi-laser printing systems such as the BLT-S1000 and BLT-1500 enable the production of complex parts with unparalleled efficiency and accuracy. From satellite bodies to propulsion systems, metal additive manufacturing not only accelerates the aerospace innovation process, but also contributes to cost reductions and increased sustainability.

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