SMARTER - Space Manufacturing, Assembly and Repair Technology Exploration and Realisation

Abstract

"Manufacturing in space has the potential to positively affect human spaceflight operations by enabling the in-orbit manufacture of replacement parts and tools, which could reduce existing logistics requirements for the International Space Station (ISS) and future long-duration human space missions. In-space manufacturing could enable space-based construction of large structures and, perhaps someday, in the future, entire spacecraft. In-space manufacturing can also help to reimagine a new space architecture that is not constrained by the design and manufacturing confines of gravity, current manufacturing processes, and launch-related structural stresses.

The Space Manufacturing, Assembly and Repair Technology Exploration and Realisation (SMARTER) project will investigate the technical feasibility of manufacturing in space. The project will focus on how reconfigurable autonomous robotic technologies can be used to automatically manufacture components, assemble large structures, and service or repair existing space assets. The SMARTER concept, i.e. a manufacturing factory in space, could ultimately lower launch costs, the exploration of space and improve mission sustainability i.e. extend the useful life of assets launched into space.

The need for a reconfigurable, autonomous manufacturing space port or factory stems from the market changing the paradigm of space operations and the development of enabling new capabilities that will put mankind's ambition to the test.

These changes include: cost reduction of payload launch and sustainable space exploration, creating satellite constellations, exploration further into space and habitation on other planets and carrying out preventative maintenance or servicing of assets in space. This vision has also been recognised by NASAs On-Orbit Satellite Servicing Study, October 2010\.

Realistically speaking, this described use of outer space may only truly materialise in 10 -- 20 year timeframe; nonetheless the UK has the prime opportunity to position itself suitably for this opportunity by investing now."

Publications

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