Our customer needed a supplier that was able to manufacture the series of 88 solar-array substrate panels for the Galileo FOC constellation, as well as capable to develop the next generation solar-array panels together with them.
In 2007, the qualification programme for the manufacture of solar array substrate panels was initiated in close collaboration with our customer. The qualification phase was completed within three years, with Airborne preparing for series manufacturing. Today, Airborne’s large cleanroom houses our industrialised production line for satellite sandwich panels. The facility layout was optimised to create flow in the production line. Investments were done in the infrastructure and tooling in order to have recurring serial production of space panels. At present, focus is on the implementation of LEAN throughout our composites factory.
Airborne’s developing expertise in the manufacture of solar array panels has strengthened our relationship with our customer. Production contracts for a number of paramount satellite programmes (including Sentinel 1 and 2 and Galileo FOC) add up to almost 200 flight panels that Airborne has delivered to date. Airborne is market leader for solar-array substrates for European satellites. This capability and experience is important in our strategy to become a leading European company for composite spacecraft structures.
At the same time we find ourselves at the doorstep of a new era, as we have recently developed and qualified our own manufacturing processes for the next generation of solar array substrates, increasing our capabilities and “upgrading” our status from a build-to-process to a build-to-print panel manufacturer with full responsibility on the materials and processes.
With this experience at hand, we are developing a radically new, fully automated manufacturing process for satellite structures. This development is supported by Airborne Composites Automation and based upon its unique low-CAPEX, integrated and flexible automation concept. This mix of capabilities makes us the ideal partner in Newspace endeavours, especially for affordable sandwich structures for satellite Mega-constellation.