Qosmosys, an international private company headquartered in Singapore, has worked with NuSpace in collaboration with Creatz3D in preparation for the launch of the Zeus-1 satellite. The project contributed to what the company claims is the first locally 3D printed component to be launched into space.
The 3D printed component is a satellite test container, fitted into the Zeus-1 satellite holder to secure a total of 50 anodised artworks as the satellite orbits. The project was named Godspeed and was done in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Pioneer-10 probe.
Before the adoption of additive manufacturing, the typical method would be CNC/metal sheet forming an aluminium case for the required satellite test container. These processes included folding and sawing of parts, which made design iterations ‘mundane and cumbersome’ said Creatz3D.
According to Creatz3D, outgassing is a challenge for equipment used in space. This is something that occurs when changes in surrounding temperature and/or pressure cause equipment to release a gas that is dissolved or trapped within the material, rendering the equipment inoperable.
Creatz3D advised on the Stratasys ANTERO 800NA as the optimum material for this project, stating its chemical resistance and ‘ultra-low’ outgassing properties as key factors. The low outgassing properties were crucial to the operation of the satellite and the test container as the team anticipated a drastic drop in external temperature from as as high as 40°C to as low as -14°C upon the Zeus-1’s launch.
Mass is a pertinent factor in the space industry, with each gram count being an increment of cost to send heavier objects into space. According to NASA, the current cost of launching per pound of payload is 10,000 USD. The final mass of the 3D printed component from Creatz3D measured at 362g, which the company says represents a reduction of over 50% from the estimated mass of 800g for a part of the same size produced in Aluminium 6061 using traditional methods.
Ng Zhen Ning, CEO and Co-Founder of NuSpace said: “The proposed original design was a sheet material, which could cost up to $4,000 to $5,000 and requiring a long lead time of at least three weeks for a machine manufactured component to reach us, whereas 3D printed parts took only 2-3 days.”
Zeus-1 was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on 18 December 2022 on board SpaceX rideshare.