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DCUBED awarded $1 million to develop in-space manufacturing

The first use case will be the manufacturing of support structures for satellite solar panels using photopolymer 3D printing

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DCUBED, a German space technology company, and the Hochschule München University of Applied Sciences have been awarded funding for a joint research project by the Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Wirtschaft, Landesentwicklung und Energie (Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs). The funding is part of the Bavarian Space Research Program, through which the state government supports the development of technologies promising to overcome the societal challenges of the future. The total volume of the project amounts to more than $1 million – two-thirds of which is provided by the state.

Launching in January 2024, the two-year project focuses on applicable research and development in the field of in-space manufacturing (ISM). In 2024, DCUBED will carry out the world’s first demonstration of this technology in open space. Further testing in 2025 will support the development of in-space manufacturing (ISM) up to full market readiness.

The first use case for ISM will be the manufacturing of support structures for satellite solar panels from photopolymer using 3D printing in space. Currently, the complete structures are prefabricated and assembled on Earth – requiring a complex unfolding mechanism that has to withstand the high stresses of a rocket launch. In comparison, panels printed using ISM are not only lighter in weight, simpler, and therefore less prone to errors, but can also lead to cost savings of up to two orders of magnitude.

“The Bavarian government’s backing is the largest subsidy we have ever received for this technology: This is a great confirmation of our capabilities. On this basis, we are aiming to do something that has never been done before: We want to be the first to show that manufacturing structures directly in space is possible. And we want to be the first to develop in-space manufacturing capabilities to market maturity,” said Thomas Sinn, CEO and Founder of DCUBED.

“We are looking forward to further intensifying our well-established partnership with DCUBED. Together we are pioneering true innovation: The ability to manufacture in space will open up entirely new potential for business and science. This will allow us to benefit even more from technologies from space on Earth in the future,” said Markus Pietras, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Hochschule München University of Applied Sciences.

“Supporting innovative technologies in the aerospace sector is an important factor in further strengthening Bavaria as a high-tech region. The commitment of DCUBED and Hochschule München in the field of in-space manufacturing is an impressive example of how research and industry can work together to push the boundaries of what is possible,” said Dietmar Schneyer, Head of the Department of Aerospace and Mobility at the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development, and Energy.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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