The European Commission chose Airbus to conduct studies on its behalf and give a comprehensive report. The study will involve spacecraft manufacturing in space via the Horizon 2020 programme. This study will help offer crucial data for the commencement of the PERIOD (PERASPERA In-Orbit Demonstration) program that will be dealing with satellite assembly as well as manufacturing in orbit. The A/B1 phase study deal will take two years and is worth €3 million. The focus of this project is to make in-orbit services accessible. This orbital factory visualized by PERIOD will promote the development of primary components like antenna reflectors, the fusion of the spacecraft components, and the substitution of the payloads while in space.
This project will be the pilot type for future manufacturing of large components and structures in space. Moreover, manufacturing components in space will help the engineers design, develop and run the space systems according to the conditions in space. This technology has a variety of advantages. First, the cost of launching the spacecraft is significantly reduced, and the engineers can develop the structure to the capacity that reaches their demand. Secondly, the engineers can test the technology that they develop directly in the field in which they will be operating. This move implies that they eliminate technical failures that they might have invoked because of working in an environment where there is gravity.
Airbus Defense and Space in Bremen will be heading this project in partnership with a team of European innovators that want to make this technology a success. This team brings its expertise in fields like in-space assembly, robotic controls, and virtual realism. The team is comprised of SENER Aeroespacial and Space Applications Services, GMV-SKY, DFKI, ISISPACE, EASN-TIS, and GMV. PERIOD will be testing in-space servicing, manufacturing, and other operations involved in the missions placing spacecraft in space. Moreover, the technology will enable Europe to improve its industrial infrastructure at the core of in-orbit servicing and manufacturing technology. PERIOD has perhaps opened a new market that exploits research and development to create employment opportunities for the people.
The future looks brighter for the demonstrator, which will be orbited by a launcher, stirring the development of space vehicles in space. Alternatively, the project can focus on flexibility and cost reduction by utilizing the ISS infrastructure. The chief of Space Exploration future programs at Airbus, Silvio Sandrone, stated that Airbus has been developing in-orbit manufacturing technologies for over a decade to help PERIOD advance the European technologies. The company illustrated research in in-space programs and hopes to roll out the robotic and AI assembly activities with the help of the German Space Agency (DLR).