The Use of Additive Manufacturing for Fabrication of Multi-Function Small Satellite Structures
The Use of Additive Manufacturing for Fabrication of Multi-Function Small Satellite Structures The use of small satellites in constellations is limited only by the growing functionality of smallsats themselves. Additive manufacturing provides exciting new design opportunities for development of multifunction CubeSat structures that integrate such functions as propulsion and thermal control into the satellite structures themselves. Manufacturing of these complex multifunction structures is now possible in lightweight, high strength, materials such as titanium by using existing electron beam melting additive manufacturing processes. However, the use of today's additive manufacturing capabilities is often cost-prohibitive for small companies due to the large capital investments required. To alleviate this impediment the U.S. Department of Energy has established a Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at their Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee that provides industry access to a broad range of energy-efficient additive manufacturing equipment for collaborative use by both small and large organizations. This paper presents a notional CubeSat multifunction design that integrates the propulsion system into a three-unit (3U) CubeSat structure. The full-scale structure has been designed and fabricated at the ORNL MDF. The use of additive manufacturing for spacecraft fabrication is opening up many new possibilities in design and fabrication capabilities for what had previously been impossible structures to fabricate.
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