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In-Space Manufacturing

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, December 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

In-space manufacturing has the potential to replace ground based manufacturing for space systems to reduce the launch cost and ground inventory of spare parts. In the longer term, ISM can provide on-demand manufacturing capability for maintenance, repair and also enable space-based construction of large structures and facilities. There are key areas of research that need to be investigated to make this possible and which this programme of work will assess in depth:

- Materials - recycling, transportation and characterisation techniques.
- Assessment of flexible advanced manufacturing technologies.
- Assess the energy requirements and source availability.
- Analysing how to adapt to the space environmental conditions.

Based on the above aspects, this programme will develop a strategic roadmap for In-Space Manufacturing for the UK industry and explore the potential opportunities in this area by assessing the economic viability and the maturity of technologies to build spare parts/large structures for space systems. The research will focus on all stages of applicable manufacturing processes from availability of raw materials to the end-product. It will also consider challenges related to the space environment and energy supply to adapt to the changes of the manufacturing conditions.

This programme of work will be conducted as part of a strategic partnership between the National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland (NMIS) and BAE Systems as industrial partener with the aim of exploring how the UK can position itself to develop a strong value proposition and business case for manufacturing in space.

Advanced manufacturing technologies have attracted several industries over the years, including space research centres. For space research, even small parts need to be transported from ground. This is expensive as it requires a large inventory of spare parts and materials to be stored on the ground. Developing In-Space Manufacturing (ISM) capabilities could assist personnel in space to develop parts when required for equipment maintenance, vehicles, facilities, and other space systems. For instance, studies and experimental activities have already been conducted to highlight that the additive manufacturing process could be a potential method of manufacture to develop spare parts and tools for maintenance purposes in space. Based on high-level literature review, it was found, the ISM could be critical capability for the long endurance missions for leading space agencies around the world.

There may also be technologies and manufacturing processes that could benefit from application in the environment of space. For example, microgravity can reduce stratification of materials during manufacture and many industrial processes require vacuums. There may be opportunities to manufacture parts which cannot be manufactured on earth or perhaps create parts more economically.

This programme of work aims to explore potential opportunities in the area of ISM, including related technical risks, challenges and economic feasibility. There are key areas of research that need to be investigated and which this programme of work will study in depth:

- Raw materials
- Manufacturing processes

Analyse initially the conditions of the raw materials to transport from Earth to space then study the recyclability of space junk, extraction of raw materials from asteroids, mining activities on the surface of planets/the moon and characterisation methodology of the materials. Study the recyclability of existing parts and in-space manufactured parts (defective parts) to reclaim the original material to develop a self-sustaining ISM capability.

Assessment of manufacturing technologies from small scale parts (e.g. repair and build tools and spare parts for the current in service requirements) to construction of large structures and space facilities. Investigate the benefits of the space environment in developing and implementing adapted manufacturing processes.

- Environment
- Energy and Power

Identify and analyse the effect of different space environmental conditions (e.g. micro-gravity, solar radiations, electro-magnetic interference, etc.) on new manufacturing processes and map the optimum environmental conditions and analyse how these can be developed and implemented to adapt to space conditions.

Assess the availability of different energy sources in space and how to extract and exploit them (e.g. solar, nuclear, etc.). Investigate methods to extract energy from space junk that will lead to e.g., clean the space environment and safe guard active satellites and the International Space Station (ISS). It will investigate:

- Literature review of the existing ISM related research work and stakeholders.
- Characterisation of materials (raw materials and in-space manufactured parts).
- Additive/hybrid manufacturing of non-metallic and metallic parts.
- Automated assemblies and joining/welding technologies by using robotics.
- Energy sources: Solar/RTG/MMRTG/Fission/Fusion

Funding Notes

Applications are welcome from all who possess or are about to obtain a first class or 2.1 BEng (Hons), MEng or MSc degree, or equivalent EU/International qualification, in a relevant discipline. Applications from Home, Rest of UK and EU students will receive funding of the home fee and stipend.

International Students are welcome to apply but should be aware of the additional funding requirements and will have to provide evidence that they can pay the difference in fees of circa £16k per annum.

Please email Dr Dorothy Evans at , with the project title and attach your most up-to-date cv.

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