Spain Bids for The Low-Cost Aerospace Race

CATEC halves spending on satellite and aircraft components by manufacturing them with 3D printers.

The low-cost aerospace race is not exclusive to Space X, the company created by Elon Musk. Spain has also entered the game. The Advanced Center for Aerospace Technologies (CATEC) has become a unique reference in the industry, manufacturing components for satellites, shuttles, airplanes, helicopters and drones with 3D printers. The industrial cost comes to be reduced by up to 40% and has achieved, among other things, in the reduction of the weight of the components and, therefore, reduced the price of the launch as well as having more load capacity. Each kilo thrown into space costs between 10,000 and 20,000 euros.

Much of the industrial future is in space. With this premise, CATEC began to work seven years ago, anticipating the needs. One of its lines of work was to develop cheaper components with all the demands of the sector, which establishes the maximum quality premise for critical elements, those that cannot afford an error. They have already manufactured structures for shuttles, such as the Spanish Bloostar, Ariane 5 or Vega; aircraft, such as the C295, the A400M and the A320 Neo; satellites and drones.

The first Spanish test center for unmanned aircraft inaugurates in July this year.

Teide is the name of the combustion chamber made with a 3D printer for the Bloostar shuttle from Zero 2 Infinity, a company based in Catalonia and specialized in aerospace transport of components and satellites. It also foresees the transfer of people to space for tourism and scientific activities with the Bloon capsule.

The application of the technology of additive manufacturing (3D printing) to the engine of Bloostar has allowed to reduce manufacturing costs, environmental impact and production times. In addition to this, the weight has been substantially lowered, its processing has been achieved with an alloy capable of withstanding the high temperatures to which it will be subjected and an internal cooling system has been designed by means of a special duct designed in CATEC.

"Traditional rockets have always had straight cooling tubes because that was all that could be manufactured. If you put a flashlight in your ear, you would see a nice structure of veins in the shape of a tree. The 3D printing and artificial intelligence now allow rockets to evolve as well as nature," says José Mariano López Urdiales, the Founder and CEO of Zero 2 Infinity.