Even a casual observer could tell you: the US is deep in the throes of a space boom. From the emerging space tourism market to high-profile launches from leaders in the industry like SpaceX and Blue Origin, it seems like every month there’s a major milestone reported from the space sector.
And while these industry leaders are driving large-scale innovation, the space industry is a story of democratization. What began as government entities like NASA and their galaxy of subcontractors and partners as the sole player in the space field has moved to the private sector, where entrepreneurs have taken up the mantle with ambitious goals of better rockets and bigger missions.
SpaceX is now 20 years old, however, and the democratization of the space industry has evolved well beyond those critical initial startups. Today, we’re witnessing a global space boom, known as NewSpace. In this article we’ll discuss what NewSpace is, and how advances in additive manufacturing are critical for its sustained success.
Velo3D is Fueling the NewSpace Race
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The Emerging NewSpace Sector
20 years ago, the barriers to entry to the space industry were insurmountable without astronomical amounts of capital. As technological advances in telecommunications, software, data analytics and more have lowered those barriers, more entrepreneurs with a vision have been able to enter this competitive field.
NewSpace can be broadly defined as a growing list of over 1,000 companies that encompass everything including operators, launch vehicles, satellites, software and ground technology, data analytics, and materials and components. These companies each work to serve a different corner of the space sector from communications and earth observation all the way through space tourism and colonization.
As the initial wave of entrepreneurial space has continued to grow, it has developed its own infrastructure. Today, NewSpace companies can focus their innovations on specialized offerings that serve broader space objectives without needing to heavily invest in large-scale rocket launches. With programs like SpaceX’s rideshare—which handles the first stage of space launch—NewSpace companies can bring their technologies into orbit much faster and with far less investment.
Additionally, NewSpace companies can learn from 60 years of space exploration. Adapting existing intellectual property and optimizing it using modern materials, designs, and technology have helped drive this growing industry.
How Advanced Metal AM Will Help Bring NewSpace to New Heights
The NewSpace sector is at a critical point in its evolution. In the past three years, the NewSpace industry has doubled raising nearly $42 billion across more than 450 companies. In short, the funding is there to bring entrepreneurs and innovators with a vision out of the planning and test phases to full-scale production environments.
At this juncture, NewSpace companies are going to need to make decisions regarding manufacturing that bring their concepts to life. As mentioned, barriers to entry have lowered across the spectrum for NewSpace companies; and this fact is maybe felt the most in manufacturing.
In the roughly 20 years since the dawn of the entrepreneurial space boom, the field of metal additive manufacturing, or metal 3D printing, has advanced in equally innovative ways. What began as a tool for quick, short-run prototyping jobs has evolved. New concepts like Velo3D’s advanced, end-to-end solution, that incorporate print preparation, printing, and quality assurance can drastically increase the speed of development and then seamlessly be scaled for full production.
What this innovation means for NewSpace companies is a departure from the strictures of legacy manufacturing systems. Advanced metal AM systems enable new levels of design freedom, with the capabilities of producing parts with complex geometries that can’t be otherwise achieved using traditional manufacturing. In an industry that requires optimized, lightweight parts, Velo3D’s advanced metal AM is key for driving innovation
In addition to more design freedom, advanced metal AM systems are also capable of slashing lead times on critical parts. Rather than waiting months for completed parts, Velo3D’s controlled parameter sets, and consistent print execution can take a part from the design stage to production in weeks – all while meeting standardized material properties. By eliminating the need for feature-specific parameter development and material re-qualification, engineers can save years and $10s of millions in investment. In such a fast-paced field, advanced metal AM provides the supply chain agility to hit key deadlines to secure funding and beat competition to market.
NewSpace is a growing sector with ambitious goals. As these innovative companies look to make the leap from concept to production, they’re going to need manufacturing tools that meet their level of ambition. Luckily, Velo3D’s advanced metal AM systems are here to aid this NewSpace race and help it reach its full potential.
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