The German NewSpace hardware manufacturer DCUBED and Munich University of Applied Sciences have been awarded funding for a joint research project by the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy. The funding is part of the Bavarian Space Research Program, with which the state government supports the development of space technologies to meet future social challenges. The total volume of the project amounts to more than one million US dollars, of which the Free State is providing almost two thirds.
The aim of the two-year project, which will start in January 2024, is the practical research and further development of technologies for production in space (In-Space Manufacturing, ISM). DCUBED will carry out the world’s first demonstration of this method in open space as early as 2024. In 2025, further tests will then help to develop the technology further until it is ready for market use.
The first application of the technology is to manufacture the supporting structures of satellite solar panels from photopolymer using 3D printing in space. Today, these are prefabricated and installed on earth, which requires, among other things, a complex unfolding mechanism that also has to withstand the high loads of a rocket launch. In comparison, panels printed using ISM are not only lighter, simpler and therefore less prone to errors, but above all they are also significantly cheaper and more efficient than today’s solutions.
The increased availability of energy in space makes it possible to equip satellites with significantly higher computing power in the future and also to considerably increase the transmission rates of data to earth. In the longer term, the findings from the current research project will also pave the way for being able to manufacture significantly larger structures and products in space in the future, thus opening up completely new potential of space for business and research.
“The support from the Bavarian government is the largest amount of funding we have ever received for this technology: This is a great confirmation of our capabilities. On this basis, we are aiming to do something that has never been done before: We want to be the first to show that manufacturing structures directly in space is possible. And we want to be the first to develop manufacturing capacities in space to market maturity.” Dr. Thomas Sinn, CEO & Founder, DCUBED
“We are looking forward to further intensifying our already proven partnership with DCUBED. Together we are doing real pioneering work: the ability to produce in space will open up completely new potential for business and science. This will allow us to benefit even more from technologies from space on Earth in the future.” Prof. Markus Pietras, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, Munich University of Applied Sciences
“The promotion of innovative technologies in the field of space travel is an important step towards further strengthening Bavaria as a location for high technology. The commitment of DCUBED and Munich University of Applied Sciences in the field of in-space manufacturing is an impressive example of how research and industry can work together to push the boundaries of what is possible.” Dietmar Schneyer, Head of the Aerospace and Mobility Department at the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy
DCUBED and Munich University of Applied Sciences have been working together on the topic of in-space manufacturing since 2019. DCUBED supports the research with employees and material expenses and is funding a doctoral thesis on the topic.