The Digital Manufacturing Centre (DMC) and the Satellite Applications Catapult have partnered in a move that highlights a new future for the UK space industry.
With the UK government aiming to capture 10% of the sector by 2030, this new partnership marks an important development in establishing a national space supply chain for advanced manufacturing.
While the UK space sector currently generates around £16.5bn per annum, providing 47,000 jobs across 1,293 different organisations, significant growth will be required to meet the government’s ambitious target.
Notably, the development of a comprehensive and advanced supply chain is needed, specialising in high-performance composites and additive manufacturing (AM). The collaboration between DMC and the Catapult intends to kickstart these ambitions.
As one of the world’s leading commercial AM production facilities, the DMC is an active supplier to advanced industries including space, aerospace, defence, motorsport, automotive, energy, and MedTech.
The Catapult is a technology and innovation company that supports early-stage businesses with technical and commercial advice, and access to unique facilities and equipment. It brings together multi-disciplinary teams to generate solutions to some of the space industry’s greatest challenges.
One of these challenges – manufacturing in space – is set to be revolutionised by AM, with teams on the ground designing and engineering parts and spares that are then transmitted to spacecraft and stations in orbit and manufactured in space using on-board additive manufacturing.
More immediately, both organisations are eager to ensure that the benefits of their joint capabilities can directly support the UK space sector. To that end, the new partnership will work with organisations developing orbital capabilities and address one of the key challenges for in-orbit servicing and manufacturing; assembly without conventional fasteners.
The DMC will leverage its extensive experience developing structures for the high-performance automotive sector in combination with the Catapult’s deep knowledge of IOSM and net-shape manufacturing to create novel and optimised solutions.
Both the Catapult and DMC take a similar and complementary approach to working in partnership with facility users to design parts and solutions using full net-shape engineering capabilities which offer significant advantages when compared to conventional equipment and machinery providers. The state-of-the-art facilities both companies offer also embrace Industry 4.0 principles with extensive connectivity, traceability, and automated control – bringing the future of advanced manufacturing to the UK space sector.
With both the DMC and the Catapult’s Westcott facility located within the Buckinghamshire LEP and Oxford-Cambridge ARC, the region is once again demonstrating its credentials as a cradle of innovation and advanced industry, exploiting synergies that exist between motorsport, space, and advanced engineering.
Kieron Salter, CEO of the DMC, comments: “The UK space sector is expected to undergo significant growth over the next decade. Integral to these ambitions is a highly-capable supply chain that understands the unique challenges of the industry – particularly when it comes to commercial applications – and is able to service those requirements.
“Additive manufacturing and the skilled engineering to exploit its limitless production capabilities will play an important role in the future of the space sector. Whether we are making parts on Earth, or creating designs to be printed in orbit, this new partnership signals the Digital Manufacturing Centre’s intention to be a production leader within the commercial UK space sector.
“In addition to supporting manufacturing for the space industry on Earth, our joint ambition is to have a DMC-led AM capability in space – either in orbit, on the moon, or another planet entirely.”
Mike Curtis-Rouse, head of access to space at the Satellite Applications Catapult, adds: “Our mission is to help grow the UK space industry on the world stage. Within the UK, we have the engineering skills and manufacturing capability to become an international leader in space technology and applications. Our role is to bridge the gap between industry and academia to deliver viable commercial solutions to the challenges of space ensuring that the right technology is used for the right application.
“Working closely with the Digital Manufacturing Centre provides us with ready access to highly sought-after skills, expertise, experience and technologies. This new partnership is a statement of intent and a promising signal for the future of the UK space industry and its emerging supply chain.
“It follows closely from the announcement of our partnership with the Manufacturing Technology Centre earlier this year, and will further strengthen the development of the next generation of technology for the space sector.”
Richard Harrington, chief executive of the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership says: “We see identifying working synergies and effecting collaboration agreements with businesses across our Enterprise Zones as vital to driving growth in innovation across Buckinghamshire.
“We are delighted to have initiated this working alliance between the Digital Manufacturing Centre at Silverstone and the new In-Orbit Servicing and Manufacturing Facility at Westcott. The synergy between the operations and aspirations for growth within the UK space sector is a perfect match that will continue to drive the successful growth of both businesses.”
Satellite Applications Catapult