First Russian nanosatellite produced at 3D printer to go into space in 2017

January 4, 2017 TASS

First Russian nanosatellite produced at a 3D printer will be launched into space from aboard the International Space Station in 2017, Yevgeny Kolubayev, the head of the Space Material Engineering section at the Polytechnic University in the Siberian city of Tomsk.

"The launch will take place during one of the spacewalks the cosmonauts will make in 2017," Kolubayev said. ""They will release it into orbit. It doesn’t have engines. It will work for four to six months thanks to the inertia imparted to it initially."

"That’s the designated service life and upon its expiry it will fall down and burn in the thick layers of the atmosphere," he said.

Alexei Yakovlev, the director of the University’s School of High Energy Physics told TASS the main objective of this nanosatellite project is to test the performance of materials and constructions with the aid of which it was built.

"We’ve tested the first stage by taking the satellite to the ISS and watching how it withstood all the loads during delivery into orbit," Yakovlev said. "In the next stage, the cosmonauts will prepare it for release into outer space and will put it there. We’ll be able to get telemetric data from it and follow its trajectory."

It is important for the researchers to see that the materials and constructions are truly functional and they can be used in the extreme conditions of outer space.

"If we get telemetric data from it (the satellite) this will mean it’s functioning," Yakovlev said. "Besides, the main problem for any satellite is to keep up the battery charge after entry into sub-zero temperatures -- and recall the temperatures in outer space are way below minus 100 Centigrade."

"We’ve used special thermal insulation constructions that help reduce the thermal shock prone with incapacitation of the battery," he said. "This solution will make it possible to build up the resource of the battery."

If the experiment proves successful, the School of High Energy Physics will be able to put production of component parts for satellites of the type on stream. "Everything is ready to this, as we have the customers who’re ready to place orders, Russian and foreign companies likewise, and Chinese companies among them," Yakovlev said.

The Tomsk-TPU-120 satellite is the first Russian space probe built with the aid of 3D technologies and specially selected materials. It was developed by the Tomsk Polytechnic University in collaboration with Energiya aerospace corporation and the Institute for Studies of the Physics of Strength and Material Engineering of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Siberia.

The satellite was taken to the ISS last spring. Somewhat earlier, a consortium developing groups of small robotic space probes weighing from the 3 kg to 30 kg was set up in Russia. Researchers have trust in the bright prospects for groupings of these probes in the future, saying that once the latter form orbital clusters they will be even be able to repair one another in orbit.

Russian space authorities hope to put two grouping of small-size satellites into space in the next two years.

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