New Partnership Created to Produce Lightweight Materials for the Space Industry

The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) has announced a new partnership venture with Luxembourg company Gradel to research and produce ultra-lightweight structures for the aeronautics and space industry. Parts will be produced for three European giants in satellite construction; Thales Alenia Space (France), Airbus Defence and Space (France), and OHB (Germany).

In the domain of space and satellites, weight is expensive. The heavier a product for transport into space is, the more it costs. In fact, the current estimate is costs of around €5,000-10,000 per kilogram, meaning that any weight loss is beneficial financially for companies sending satellites into space.

The new partnership is aiming to produce very tough, yet ultra-lightweight structures using continuous carbon-fibre-reinforced-polymers (CFRP) in a filament winding process creating ultralight 3D structures.

The carbon fibre is coated with a polymer that solidifies the entire object rendering it extremely solid and resilient. Impregnated carbon fibres are wound to form an optimised 3D-mesh design that gives the part its special mechanical properties.

Two projects will be carried out at the LIST-Gradel labs, the first called “xFKin3D”, consists of making parts by hand with the filament weaving manually. It will target the demonstration space-use standards of structural parts produced by the xFKin3D technology.

The second project to be known as “Robotised xFKin3D” will be the challenge of producing the same parts as the first project, but with the use of a new robotic arm recently installed at LIST, making it a fully automated manufacturing process, assuring excellent repeatability, to the same strength and quality, but on a larger scale.

The components produced are destined for use in all that is antenna support, bracket for equipment in satellites. Currently many of these parts are metallic and therefore relatively heavy. The aim is to move away from metal parts, and with this new technology by LIST and Gradel produced in Luxembourg, a reduction of up to 75% in weight can be achieved, saving companies considerable costs.

Both projects are supported by the Luxembourg National Space Programme LuxIMPULSE, which aims at providing funding to help companies established in Luxembourg to bring innovative ideas to market. The programme is managed by the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) together with the European Space Agency (ESA).