In December 2018 Airborne has completed their contribution to the European Commission Horizon 2020 project SMall Innovative Launcher for Europe (SMILE). From 2016 on, participants together have been designing a launcher for satellites up to 50 kg and the manufacturing of cost-effective solutions. Preliminary results were shown at IAC Bremen 2018.
Smart automation for small launchers
In order to keep the payload capacity for the upper stage of SMILE as high as possible, the launcher is made from lightweight composite materials. To lower the manufacturing cost, automation is key.
Airborne contributed by developing a structural concept for a small launcher together with new and innovative automation technology, in order to manufacture the structures. To validate these new technologies a demonstrator was manufactured.
The aim was to show launcher structures manufacturing with the use of the automated laminating cell. Normally, automated production of large structures is done using fibre placement, which uses many thin tapes of prepreg. Airborne used a single 150mm wide tape: a wider material that significantly saves cost. But it’s more difficult to make complex three-dimensional shapes. The material was lay down on a flat table. After layup, the material was cut into the desired shape, formed into the final 3D shape and cured. The positive outcomes show the use of low cost materials even for the most complex shapes.
Access to space for small satellites
SMILE targets both the market for education and in-orbit demonstration, and commercial, scientific and governmental missions. It is Europe’s ambition to gain independent access to space for small satellites.
The development of critical advanced European technology with affordability in mind is an essential step to achieve this goal. In order to lower the manufacturing cost, and meet production rates around one launcher every week, the production should be automated as much as possible.
Maturing the automated manufacturing technology
Anders Brødsjø, Technology Manager at Airborne, involved in the SMILE project, said:
“The SMILE project allowed us to further mature our automated manufacturing technology, as well as developing a concept for a launcher structure. This technology helps to create affordable launcher structures, but is also applicable for markets like aerospace and automotive.”
New video on SMILE project
At the IAC Bremen 2018 the preliminary results were shown, including a brand-new video. With courtesy of the NLR (Netherlands Aerospace Centre) all participants present the latest on their joined effort. Full results of the project: https://www.small-launcher.eu/