Cornwall capitalizes on space opportunities – SatNews


As UK manufacturing is changing rapidly – partly to meet the demand generated by increased space and aerospace activity – the opportunities for localizing supply chains and developing vital infrastructure have never were also abundant.

UK manufacturers are racing to take advantage of the opportunities, but there is one standout location: Cornwall. With its strong manufacturing scene and historical ties to industry, Cornwall Space Cluster (Cornwall Aerospace) is making big waves by pushing the boundaries of engineering, technology and manufacturing.

One of these companies specializes in advanced composites Piran compositeswho recently opened a new site at Aerohub (Cornwall Enterprise Zone) beside Cornwall Newquay Airport. This expansion, which takes full advantage of the increase in space activity in the region, has more than one advantage. Not only does this allow Piran Composites to scale up its aerospace operations, it brings huge investment in industry infrastructure.

As one of the two main suppliers of ultra-lightweight carbon fiber structures, Piran Composites has already created 30 new jobs in the past 12 months. Having fabricated key sections of the aerostructure of the PHASA-35 (an unmanned solar-powered pseudo-satellite) in Cornwall, they began production of the complete aerostructure for the next stage of PHASA-35 development. Although this low-cost and highly innovative forward-looking technology (designed in partnership with BAE systems) is not yet manufacturable in large quantities, the market for this sector is growing rapidly, providing more opportunities for UK manufacturers.

Advanced composites are not the only products advancing the development of the country’s aerospace industry. There is a wide range of companies based in Cornwall, producing products and services that contribute positively to localizing the space supply chain in the UK.

  • Exobotic: As a start-up with offices in Cambridge and Cornwall, Exobotics uses the latest advances in robotics, materials, structures and artificial intelligence to enable low-cost spaceflight for missions to the Moon – and beyond. With their diverse and experienced team of experts in mechatronics, materials, software and machine learning, they develop and manufacture scalable and modular software and hardware suited to the operational challenges of extra-orbital environments. Exobotics has created the world’s first low-cost portable thermal vacuum test system (TVAC) that is revolutionizing access to space by reducing the complexity and costs of space operations.
  • Flann Microwave: Now that small satellites, cubes and nanosatellites make up the majority of payloads launched into space, it is time to bridge the gap between the rapid development of this technology and the underdevelopment of current test facilities. Flann can combat the resulting problems (higher costs and longer lead times) by localizing the supply chain – manufacturing satellite components and launching them from the UK. For more than 60 years, Flann’s team of specialist engineers has served companies such as Nasa and the office met, with solutions to waveguide problems for the space, telecommunications, automotive, healthcare and education sectors. The demand for high-speed data services, from both individuals and businesses, is driving a revolution in satellite technology. Traditional large satellites weighing several tons and orbiting 22,236 miles above the equator are giving way to nanosatellites and cubesats, which can be as small as 10 cubic cm and weigh as little as 1.4 kg. They are small enough to be launched as additional payloads on large missions or in groups of up to 100 at a time, as well as from a single rocket and even the new class of space launch systems. vertical and horizontal being developed in Cornwall and Scotland. . This makes them very cost effective and over 350 of these satellites were launched in 2018. In order to maximize the greater data capacity (bandwidth) offered by these systems, they require much higher frequency microwave switches to transmit the data to ground antennas: a W-band switch, which has not yet been developed for aerospace use. However, in 1980 Flann first designed and manufactured a W-band switch for ground use, which placed them in a good position to create a new switch that was smaller and lighter to allow faster and more accurate communication with satellites.

This new era of space exploration, which aims to make space more accessible and launches more sustainable, has resulted in the frequent use of small satellites, reusable rockets and commercial subsystems. It’s great to see Cornwall-based companies leading the research, development and production of this innovative technology in the UK.

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