Swissto12 and Thales Alenia Space turn to 3D printing for communications satellite parts

Science

SAN FRANCISCO — SWISSto12 is working with Thales Alenia Space to expand the use of additively manufactured parts for geostationary communications satellites.

Swissto12, a Lausanne, Switzerland, telecommunications component startup, has worked for years to design, manufacture and test waveguide signal interconnects for Thales Alenia Space communications satellites. Thales Alenia Space plans to install the 3D-printed waveguide signal interconnects on a Eutelsat Konnect Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS) scheduled to launch in 2021.

Swissto12 announced delivery Sept. 30 to Thales Alenia Space of a large batch of the 3D printed waveguides.

Through its work with Thales Alenia Space, Swissto12 hopes to gain flight heritage for its additively manufactured parts as well as credibility among geostationary communications satellite manufacturers, Swissto12 CEO Emile de Rijk told SpaceNews.

De Rijk also is optimistic Thales Alenia Space and other satellite manufacturers will install more additively manufactured parts in satellites destined for low and medium Earth orbit.

SWISSto12 integrated multiple waveguide signal interconnects into modules for Eutelsat Konnect VHTS.

“It saves weight, it saves costs and it saves volume onboard the satellites because through traditional manufacturing you cannot pack them as densely,” de Rijk said. “Inevitably, it also improves performance. It’s a few tens of decibels on every line. But if you do this on 500 lines, you help significantly the link budget of the satellite.”

Thales Alenia Space built the all-electric Eutelsat Konnect satellite launched in January 2020. Thales Alenia Space also is manufacturing Konnect VHTS, a Ka-band satellite to offer European fixed broadband and in-flight connectivity service.

In 2019, Swissto12 raised 18.1 million Swiss francs ($18.44 million), established a U.S. offices and announced plans to work with Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems to support geostationary satellite customers.

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