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Thursday, 9 June 2011

Programme looks forward to automated factories in space

The Engineer
June 8, 2011

The Technology Strategy Board-funded scheme will develop the idea of off-planet manufacturing for technology such as solar sails and antenna reflectors, which could cut the costs and complexity of such structures.

If this equipment were manufactured in space it could be made thinner, lighter and with fewer parts because it would not have to withstand the force of Earth’s gravity or fold compactly into a launch vehicle.

Magna Parva’s director, Andrew Bowyer, told The Engineer he thought technology from the Consolidated Off Planet Manufacturing and Assembly System for Large Space Structures (COPMA) project could become a reality within five to 10 years.

‘It’s about adapting the manufacturing for requirements in space,’ he said. ‘There are some challenges to overcome because you’re in a vacuum but actually that suits this process.

‘We’re looking at different methods of making it effective energy-wise, perhaps using some of the radiation that is naturally around you rather than having to put a lot of energy in.’


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