CATEC Advanced Center for

Pieces designed and manufactured by CATEC in 3D printing traveled to space on Airbus' EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite

August 19th 2021

The Andalusian technology center has designed and manufactured the titanium supports for the solar panels of the QUANTUM telecommunications satellite, in collaboration with AIRBUS and the European Space Agency (ESA), and using 3D printing technology.

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The Eutelsat Quantum comercial satellite, developed in an ESA Partnership Project with manufacturer Airbus and operator Eutelsat, was launched on July 30, and represents an important advance in terms of a new generation of telecommunications satellites.

The Center for Advanced Aerospace Technologies, CATEC, paid attention to this launching since in its facilities several some of the pieces that reached space have been designed (in collaboration with AIRBUS) and manufactured. Specifically, it is about the supports of the titanium solar panels, applying 3D printing technology or also called additive manufacturing. These pieces were developed and delivered by CATEC in 2016, at that time one of the first manufactured by critical technology from a structural and functional point of view, fully qualified for space. This development process has required extensive knowledge of technology and maturity, where all associated processes had to be qualified, from the storage and monitoring of the raw material, the application of post-processes such as heat treatments, improvement of the surface finish, machining of the interfaces, and finally verification methods and non-destructive qualification, applying in this case X-ray computed tomography.

Additive manufacturing is precisely one of the main lines of activity and specialization of the Andalusian technology center, in which it has been working for more than a decade, when this technology was still emerging. 3D printing is one of the processes that brings the greatest benefits to the space sector, in which the reduction of weight, manufacturing times and costs are important. All these years of experience and research have served CATEC to develop more than 100 aerospace applications for launchers, satellites and space probes.

In addition to the QUANTUM satellite, to highlight other recent milestones, it has developed a critical structure for the CHEOPS satellite (in collaboration with the engineering company CiTD) and the PROBA-3 mission (together with SENER), both from ESA. Also in collaboration with the European Space Agency, CiTD and AIRBUS, CATEC has recently delivered part of the secondary structure of the JUICE space probe (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer), which will study the icy moons of Jupiter.

Fernando Lasagni, CATEC’s CTO Materials and Processes, leads the team of engineers and researchers working on different technologies related to Industry 4.0 for the aerospace sector: “the launching of the EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite is another milestone for CATEC, and therefore for the Andalusian and Spanish aerospace sectors, demonstrating that we are at the forefront of additive manufacturing technology in Europe and the rest of the world, developing with no hang ups all kind of projects for the aerospace sector. This is the result of many years of work and commitment, and of an experienced team of engineers in additive manufacturing and related processes, such as Antonio Periñán, Carlos Galleguillos, among many other colleagues from CATEC”.

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