Big science and industry join forces to innovate new space technologies

Big science and industry join forces to innovate new space technologies
Space exploration has led to many societal benefits that have improved quality of life on Earth

The Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) and European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) team up with leading European space companies OHB System AG and MT Aerospace AG to tackle industry challenges and innovate new space technologies.

This collaboration in big science comes as the companies work to innovate new space technologies, working specifically to advance the characterisation of aerospace materials and make fabrication processes more efficient by probing matter with x-rays and neutrons.

Space exploration has led to many societal benefits that have improved quality of life on Earth, for example, the first satellites contributed to knowledge and capabilities for:

  • Telecommunications;
  • Global positioning; and
  • Advances in weather forecasting.

Successful space exploration covers a broad range of missions requiring advanced systems and capabilities that will accelerate the development of many technologies, including advanced materials and structural concepts.

Research innovating the materials behind space technologies as well as their manufacturing methods will pave the way for more successful space missions and applications for use on Earth. Developing new space technologies is key to ensuring Europe continues to play an important role in the global sector.

Innovation in space research

Collaborations in European science and engineering resources is critical for innovation in space research, technology and its applications. This is echoed in the agreement signed by the ILL and ESRF, launching the collaboration with leading European space companies OHB System AG and MT Aerospace AG to further the field.

As the world’s flagship neutron and synchrotron facilities, ILL and ESRF will join their resources and facilities to tackle challenges in the field of advanced characterisation of aerospace materials and fabrication processes.

Requirements for space missions can include:

  • High-performance materials for vehicle structures, propellant tanks and propulsion systems;
  • Lightweight, deployable and inflatable structures for space infrastructures and crew habitats; and
  • Systems for reducing launch mass and volume of parts such as antennae and booms to be deployed in space.

These requirements also present several materials challenges – amongst which they also need to be durable and functional in a hostile environment.

What will this collaboration focus on?

The collaboration will focus on furthering these studies and developing smarter materials and components to make more efficient devices and systems for space deployment.

Together the collaborators will conduct prototype manufacturing of new materials, processing from multi-parameter studies through qualifying models for testing and flight approval.

Professor Helmut Schober, Director of the ILL said: “Europe operates the most powerful network of large scale materials characterisation facilities, among which the ESRF and ILL are the world-leading flagships for probing matter with X-rays and neutrons.

“Employing these tools for the benefit of Europe’s space industry is an enormous opportunity to further develop Europe’s competitiveness in this technology sector. The agreement with OHB System and MT Aerospace is laying the pioneering groundwork for fully seizing this opportunity.”

Roland Schneider, Vice President and Head of Technology Programs, MT Aerospace AG concludes: “The cooperation with ILL and ESRF is an important cornerstone within our development activities for competitive manufacturing technologies. The agreement will enable a most effective and innovative collaboration between space engineers and researchers in various future development projects.

“Neutron beams and synchrotron rays are outstanding investigation methods for new materials for satellites and launch systems. They give a much better understanding of material behaviour in correlation with modern manufacturing processes.”

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between all parties, to express their intention to establish potential collaborations in the field of advanced characterisation of aerospace materials and innovate new space technologies, in areas mutually agreed.

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