New Space and Additive Manufacturing: An Exemplary Fit

What is New Space, how does it benefit from new technology and what technologies are pushing the sector to new heights?

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2.	EOS Industrial metal 3D printer using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) during build process.(Image Source: EOS)

EOS Industrial metal 3D printer using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) during build process. (Image Source: EOS.)

The public and commercial interest in space travel and technology has seen a resurgence in recent years, resulting in the coining of the term “New Space.” But what is New Space? And how does it benefit from new technology? Let’s explore New Space together with an overview of the innovative industry and how additive manufacturing (AM) can propel the technology into the future.

New Space: The Transformation of an Industry

The space sector as we know it is undergoing an unprecedented transformation. With players like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, talks of commercial space travel in the not-too-distant future and streamed launches back on the radar, it’s no surprise that space has once again taken its place on the global stage.

A Very Brief History of the Space Industry

Traditionally, space was driven by direct state investments, national programs or scientific explorations to move humanity forward. Much of this was because the space industry was hampered by its complex technical challenges, enormous costs and the risks involved. This simply created too big a barrier for private players to get involved. Furthermore, the lack of ease to iterate on and realize advanced concepts hindered anyone other than state programs to push the existing performance of the space industry. Certainly, from an economic and technical standpoint, space just wasn’t a viable investment from a commercial perspective.

While the prohibitive practicalities of entering the space industry kept private organizations from joining in, the downstream applications utilizing the space infrastructure kept growing immensely. Satellite communication, earth observation, GPS and even social media all rely on the space infrastructure and its technology to operate. More and more of our technology became rapidly reliant on space, but the industry and its infrastructure were not growing at the same rate. The space industry was yearning for a transformation.

New (Space) Kids on the Block

With big corporations making their way into the space industry, what started as a “trend” turned into a full-fledged transformation of the industry — generally referred to as the New Space industry.

According to a paper released by the European Space Agency, New Space defines the “emergence of the private space industry, particularly companies that — when compared to ‘traditional’ space companies — tend to be less reliant on government support and focused on less well-established lines of business.”

New Space thrives on private organizations headed by visionaries with exceptionally deep pockets and bold ambitions. And it’s been given a huge jolt thanks to technical and business model innovations which now give the space industry a sustainable commercial nature.

EOS 3D Printed RUAG Aerospace Bracket Application (Image Source: EOS)

EOS 3D Printed RUAG Aerospace Bracket Application. (Image Source: EOS.)

Propelling New Space with Innovation

Many of the New Space private players are businesses that have already made a significant impact in technological advancement in other fields but have chosen to branch out into the space industry because of relative crossovers. Microsoft Azure is a great example of this transition and the monetization of space infrastructure.  In 2020, Microsoft announced that its Azure cloud network would be powered by SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet, thereby competing with Amazon’s AWS Ground Station and also Amazon’s own AWS Space based on its Kuiper network.

There are many technical breakthroughs in other fields that have opened up possibilities for New Space — from software and automation to new synthesized materials and manufacturing methods — and while the developers of these technologies are pushing the advancement of New Space, they’re also keen to capitalize on it.

The minimization of traditional constraints has meant more technology adoption and incorporation of private innovators and manufacturers into the space industry. These advancements have contributed to the improvement of many technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the miniaturization of satellites and components, reusable launch systems, laser-based communication devices and ignition. As manufacturing has developed in the public and consumer space, it has offered significant benefits to the space industry, which in turn present companies with huge commercial opportunities.

Advantages of Additive Manufacturing

One of the most impactful developments in production for the space industry has been additive manufacturing (AM). For many applications, AM has drastically reduced the design-to-part-in-hand cycle, even from 10 months to one. The simplification of fabricating parts has significantly reduced lead times and increased precision and quality, allowing the New Space industry to flourish. This has directly impacted the entire engineering process of everything from specific parts to the complete launch vehicle, resulting in the ability to reach and exceed performance targets.

Due to its performance and design-centric DNA, New Space is an industry that taps into all the advantages of AM. It’s inherently digital, extremely precise, fast, reliable and still cost effective, making it an optimal solution for the New Space industry’s commercial nature.

The foundational advantage AM offers New Space is the very high “bang for your buck” factor that it taps into – this is directly linked to complexity cost reduction. In any industry, it’s well known that costs almost always rise exponentially with greater levels of complexity. AM has directly addressed that for New Space by optimizing the production of the heaviest, longest lead time, highest cost and most complex parts. Furthermore, the adoption of AM has allowed for greater innovation in the design evolution and pace of part production, directly resulting in the ability and willingness to try out new and radical concepts. Because progress in the space industry relies on the designing, testing, failing, learning and re-designing of new concepts, the faster and cheaper production of parts has accelerated the whole development process.

From the first flagship (traditional) space companies right through to the New Space companies, AM was key for these pioneers as they joined the industry. It allowed these innovators to realize their concepts without huge manufacturing constraints typical in the traditional space industry. Additive manufacturing companies such as EOS have partnered with big space companies and small start-ups globally, as their proof of concept (POC) enablement partner and as their provider of reliable serial AM solutions, including customization from start to part with the Additive Minds Consulting team.

EOS’ main goal when working with New Space has been and will continue to be improving the organization’s access to and knowledge of our innovative additive manufacturing solutions. AM allows engineers’ ambitious and out-of-this-world designs to come to fruition quickly, reliably and exceeding performance targets.

If you are interested in incorporating additive manufacturing into your production but need a customized system to match the complexity of your application, learn more about AMCM’s tailored manufacturing solutions. AMCM, an additive manufacturing machinery builder in Starnberg, Germany, handles everything from system requirements, part design, material development, and beyond.