No more launch constraints? Europe is working on the future space factory
The European Commission has awarded a three million euro contract to a consortium led by Airbus to study the feasibility of such a plant in space. This project, called “Period” and which is part of the European Horizon 2020 research program, is spread over two years. It aims “for the maturation of space robotics technologies and the definition of a demonstration in orbit from 2025”, according to the European executive.
This “orbital factory (…) will be the first to build directly in space major components such as antenna reflectors, to assemble and replace modules and satellite payloads”, detailed Thursday in a statement Airbus, according to whom “it is the precursor of the manufacture of large structures in orbit”.
Ultimately, rather than building satellites or components on Earth and placing them on top of rockets to send them into space – which notably limits their weight and size – the space plant could “produce them independently from its own orbit”.
“Future large-scale space systems can only be manufactured and assembled in orbit, so it is crucial that Europe is at the forefront of this key capability,” said Silvio Sandrone, head of future space exploration projects at within Airbus, cited in the press release.
Airbus, supported in this project by seven European innovators, is already working on other space manufacturing programs, including the first 3D printer for metal in space, which will be deployed next year.