iLAuNCH Trailblazer to Print Hypersonic Space Structures

The iLAuNCH Trailblazer project is set to redefine the future of space technology by harnessing the power of 3D printing. Collaborating with South Australian universities and advanced manufacturer VPG Innovation, this venture aims to establish a cutting-edge manufacturing facility that will utilize additive manufacturing techniques to craft more durable satellites and hypersonic space vehicle structures.

Known as the Innovative Launch, Automation, Novel Materials, Communications, and Hypersonics (iLAuNCH) program, the endeavor is supported by the Department of Education and brings together renowned institutions such as the University of South Australia (UniSA), University of Southern Queensland, CSIRO, and The Australian National University.

iLAuNCH Trailblazer to Print Hypersonic Space Structures
Test equipment for hypersonic research. (Image Credit: iLAuNCH Trailblazer)

“This important project is well underway in one of our key focus areas – additive manufacturing,” said Darin Lovett, Executive Director at iLAuNCH Trailblazer.

“Increasing the availability of custom structures, which are space-ready, will support the growing space sector. The partnership will also support a world-class Australian sovereign manufacturing capability that will create new jobs, alongside a highly trained workforce, leading to global exports within the space industry and other markets.”

The core technology at play is Electron Beam Melting (EBM) of metals, which occurs in a vacuum, enabling high-temperature printing in a non-oxygenated environment. This process reduces internal stresses, resulting in more resilient and flexible parts. 3D printing’s design flexibility offers unparalleled opportunities for optimizing space objects’ performance, unhampered by the constraints of traditional manufacturing methods.

The iLAuNCH program has secured substantial funding, with $50 million from the federal government and an additional $130 million from universities. The anticipated net economic benefit of this $180 million investment is a cool $3.6 billion, by 2040.

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