Lockheed Martin : Giant Satellite Fuel Tank Sets New Record for 3-D Printed Space Parts; Tank delivery time slashed from two years to three months, continues Lockheed Martin sprint to cut satellite cost and schedule by 50 percent
The titanium tank consists of three parts welded together: two 3-D printed domes that serve as caps, plus a variable-length, traditionally-manufactured titanium cylinder that forms the body
Our largest 3-D printed parts to date show we're committed to a future where we produce satellites twice as fast and at half the cost,' said
Satellite fuel tanks must be both strong and lightweight to withstand the rigors of launch and decade-long missions in the vacuum of space. That makes titanium an ideal material, but procuring 4-foot-diameter, 4-inch-thick titanium forgings can take a year or more, making them the most challenging and expensive parts of the tank. Traditional manufacturing techniques also meant that more than 80 percent of the material went to waste. Now, 3-D printing eliminates all that lost material for the domes, and the titanium used for printing is readily available with no wait time.
'We self-funded this design and qualification effort as an investment in helping our customers move faster and save costs,' explained Ambrose. 'These tanks are part of a total transformation in the way we design and deliver space technology. We're making great strides in automation, virtual reality design and commonality across our satellite product line. Our customers want greater speed and value without sacrificing capability in orbit, and we're answering the call.'
Even the smallest leak or flaw could be catastrophic for a satellite's operations, so
The tank domes are a leap in size for qualified 3-D printed materials. The largest part previously qualified was a toaster-size electronics enclosure for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program.
Technicians used Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing to produce these domes in the largest 3-D printer at our facility in
The new fuel tank for
This infographic shows the scale of the 3-D printed domes, their placement on the tank and overall location within an LM 2100 satellite.
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