3D printing enabled ALTAIR satellite ready to launch in 2017

Millennium Space Systems have reached a major development milestone for their ALTAIR satellite ahead of a proposed launch in March 2017. They have announced that the first satellite has completed development and been shipped. The satellite was enabled by additive manufacturing and has now gained flight qualification. 

Paul Swanson, Millennium Space’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations program manager, explained the importance of reaching this target,

This flight qualification of our ALTAIR™ spacecraft represents a key milestone in providing low-risk and very high-platform performance coupled with affordability as the company transitions to full-scale manufacturing of our ALTAIR™ product line and anticipated ALTAIR™ constellations.

ALTAIR satellite. Image via Millennium Space Systems.
ALTAIR satellite. Image via Millennium Space Systems.

The ALTAIR Satellite

The ALTAIR satellite is a pathfinder spacecraft which, according to Millennium Space Systems, demonstrates advanced avionics, guidance & control, additive manufacturing, power systems, RF communications and onboard processing technologies.’ Intended to be launched during a resupply of the International Space Station (ISS) from Cape Canaveral, Florida in March next year, the satellite will be released by astronauts within 30 to 60 days of its arrival on the ISS.  

The compact stowed volume of the NanoRacks ALTAIR Pathfinder. Image via Millennium Space Systems.
The compact stowed volume of the NanoRacks ALTAIR Pathfinder. Image via Millennium Space Systems.

Purpose of ALTAIR Satellite

The ALTAIR Pathfinder was developed to showcase the capabilities of a low-cost platform for low earth orbit (LEO) constellations. Millennium Space Systems are using NanoRacks as a launch service in order to test the device in LEO. NanoRacks from Houston, Texas represent a standardization of apparatus for LEO launches reducing costs by saving space. The company counts the European Space Agency and NASA among it’s customers. 

Paul Swanson from Millennium Space Systems gives a further update on the ALTAIR satellite and future plans,

Our manufacturing and production plan is in place to deliver hundreds of these vehicles each year. We have taken great measures to ensure that our spacecraft will work as designed through a series of environmental and functional tests culminating in our Pre-Ship Readiness Review and decision to ship the vehicle this week.  As we transition to high-volume production of these vehicles in our state-of-the-art spacecraft factory, ALTAIR™ provides the underpinnings to support resiliency, affordability, persistence and high-tech refresh, thereby enabling tailored constellations fielded quickly, effectively and affordably.

This development adds to other space news, including the International Space Station’s recent 3D printing competition winner. The competition asked entrants to use 3D printing to reduce costs in aerospace manufacturing and saw a proposal for a device that releases femtosatellites.

Featured image shows the NanoRacks ALTAIR Pathfinder. Image via Millennium Space Systems.