3D-printed omnidirectional antenna from Lockheed Martin is ready for launch.

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Lockheed Martin GPS IIIF (SV11+) satellite
Lockheed Martin GPS IIIF (SV11+) satellite

According to a recent announcement from Lockheed Martin, the first intricate 3D-printed antenna for space flight has been certified.

The omnidirectional antenna will be a key component of the upcoming GPS III Space Vehicle 10 and will be used for communications relays between it and Earth.

This is at a time when the aerospace and defence industries are heavily investing in additive manufacturing (AM), and given the advantages, Lockheed experienced while producing this antenna,

they may use it to make other parts sooner rather than later.

Lockheed has been implementing AM throughout its organization, including for electronics, as a result of realizing its potential.

One illustration is Fortify,

a startup that uses additive manufacturing and specializes in creating materials and manufacturing methods for printed electronics.

Following their investment,

Lockheed saw the company’s products being used to create 3D-printed components across four distinct Lockheed Martin business units.

However, having a component that is flight-ready is different from having a part that was 3D printed. Lockheed needed to be certain that every component of its satellites, even the AM ones, would function in orbit.

Because of this,

the Lockheed team has been diligently testing the antenna to make sure it complies with all qualification requirements.
They did a thorough shakedown of the antenna and tested every aspect, including the manufacturing procedure, temperature, and shake tests.

From left to right, the Lockheed Martin omnidirectional GPS antenna is shown as the cross-section, the bare antenna, and the antenna in housing.

Incorporating 3D printing into Defence

Lockheed now has a production line that can create antennas with specified/complex geometries, reduces the defects typically seen with welding,

and saves 60% of the cost when compared to traditional manufacturing

thanks to these experiments, which took about 8 years from the prototype.
The following 10–20 satellites’ antennas will already be printed by Lockheed, and the company is already looking into how to add them to other spacecraft in the future.

It’s exciting to see how important 3D printing is to the defence industry and how effective the build-test-launch cycle is

. The company appears prepared to continue its AM course for these satellites and additional endeavours in the future with the support of upper management and Trotter.

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