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To keep up with the emerging requirements of mass production, mega-constellations and formations of microsatellites, one needs innovative test concepts and production processes. Modern manufacturing techniques from the realm of lndustry 4.0 can open the door to significant productivity gains in high-volume satellite production. The Zentrum für Telematik e.V. (Würzburg) is working on transferring new methods and tools for satellite production into the space sector. The submitted idea is specifically geared towards human-robot collaboration based on the use of a lightweight robot.
The INNOspace Masters was an important encouragement to further elaborate technology transfer of terrestrial Industry 4.0 production technologies to the space environment. It was used to realise multi-satellite systems placed in orbit since 2020. This attracted significant attention to efficiently implement networks of distributed systems, composed of small satellites. Alternative production technologies are further elaborated and compared in the „research factory on small satellites“, which was initiated in 2022. The start-up company S4 – Smart Small Satellite Systems GmbH was founded as a spin-off, growing significantly and having even received responsibility as prime contractor to realise a VLEO. telecommunication satellite for ESA.
Based on the novel concept for modular small satellite production, the space capability of the satellites manufactured in this way could already be proven. The concept is already being used for more than 20 commissioned satellites and commercialised in the company S4 GmbH. The team was thus able to grow to 40 FTEs – and establish an excellent international reputation with numerous publications.