Image credit - ESA/G. Porter

Image credit – ESA/G. Porter

It probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that building and launching a satellite is no small feat, nor does it come cheap. The fact that everything needs to be right the first time is also doubly important since once it’s up there, it’s not as if you can call a technician or repair man to go fix it if something is wrong.

However the ESA is hoping to make things easier and have recently announced that they have started to test out 3D printed satellite components. 3D printing an entire satellite is not exactly feasible yet, but in the meantime 3D printing some of its major components is. To be more specific, the ESA has started to test out a 3D printed radio antenna that has been copper-plated to give it an even coat to give it its proper radio-frequency performance requirements.

The goal behind 3D printing components is that it helps to lower costs, not to mention it could potentially allow faster manufacturing. As the ESA points out, since the antenna which has complex geometry can be printed in a single piece, it removes the need for assembly, which in turn also removes any possible mistakes like as misalignments that could cause problems in the future.

Now before you get too excited about 3D printed satellite components finding their way into space, right now the ESA is testing it out at their Compact Antenna Test Facility in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, presumably if all goes well we should expect more 3D printed components in the future.

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