CRP USA, the producer of the Windform LX 3.0 composite material, has collaborated with Portland State Aerospace Society for the manufacture of OreSat0 CubeSat, Oregon’s first satellite, deployed into low earth orbit in March 2021 and successfully operating since then.
The company has already worked with various space companies such as Alba Orbital Ltd on the manufacture of CubeSats. As a reminder, CubeSats are miniature, lightweight satellites used for space research, earth observation, telecommunications, and a wide array of other purposes. Since CubeSats pose little to no harm to human wellbeing, they are part of an industry that is not highly regulated and therefore allows for a lot of customization and innovation – all of which is possible through AM.
In this specific case, “OreSat is [a] fully open source, modular, and re-usable CubeSat system designed for educational teams”, said PSAS members. “OreSat uses a card cage system, which allows cards to be reused on different missions from 1U to 3U CubeSats. Cards include everything you would expect aboard a CubeSat: an on-board computer with multi-band radios, a battery pack, a star tracker, a GPS receiver, and the beginnings of an attitude determination and control system (ADCS). Solar modules are mounted on the outside of the Aluminum frame, along with deployable omnidirectional antennas.”
For the manufacture, the tea at CRP Technology used Selective Laser Sintering and Windform LX 3.0 for manufacturing subsystems on OreSat0. Windform LX 3.0 – a material that was leveraged to fabricate parts for Olli 2.0 – is a glass fiber reinforced material from the Windform TOP-LINE range of composite materials for Powder Bed Fusion 3D printing process (Selective Laser Sintering).
The material allowed the PSAS team to use 3D printing processes on their critical subsystems, including their extremely reliable deployer for their tri-band turnstile antenna. The antenna has three separate antennas (UHF at 436.5 MHz, L band at 1.265 GHz, and L1 at 1.575 GHz) each with 4 elements; all 12 of these elements are deployed using nylon monofilament lines and only a single melt resistor.
“There was no way we would have been able to get the packing density of three bands with four elements each in anything other than a 3D printed, non-conductive process. We don’t know of any other satellite with this kind of antenna density”, PSAS members explain.
“We designed and manufactured the parts locally using extremely inexpensive FDM machines until we prototyped a design that worked. We then switched to SLS 3D printing, which worked extremely well. But we couldn’t find SLS parts that could stand the temperature extremes and that were vacuum rated to NASA and ESA outgassing standards. With Windform LX 3.0, we could design the parts for 3D printing, run quick turns to prototype on local printers, and then print our final engineering and flight units out of Windform.
It absolutely changed the way we design all parts of our satellite thanks to its characteristics: Windform LX 3.0 can be used in space; it has extremely good material properties; it is extremely easy to work with; it is far superior to other 3D printing materials, including the other FDM, SLA, and SLS technologies that we’ve used”, they add.
Before integration into the launch vehicle, OreSat0 (with 3D printed parts in Windform LX 3.0) was subjected to the following testing: Three axis 14 g random vibration, -40 to +80 °C thermal cycling, and vacuum cycling. Windform performed flawlessly for all of these tests.
OreSat0.5 is being readied for flight in October 2023, and OreSat1 is scheduled for a deployment off of the international space station in early 2024.
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