European Space Agency

HiPeR FLEXLINKS - Industrialisation HiPeR Flexlinks for Undisclosed Constellation

AddToAny

Objectives

Objective of the project is to industrialize the production and testing of a (for space industry standards) large volume of more than 900 Flexlinks.

Flexlinks are thermal straps with pyrolytic graphite (PG) that offer superior specific performance (W/K per kg) and mechanical flexibility.

The project benefited from two starting conditions:

  • The design and the thermal performance of the Flexlink were frozen in an Engineering Model (EM) campaign.
  • A concept for the production and test process was proposed with the potential for a low recurring price.

Further steps in the industrialization process were needed to ensure an economic and robust process.

Challenges

The existing Flexlink production process is largely a manual process suitable for low production volumes (scientific or non-constellation satellites), but not suitable for mass production. Development is therefore essential to accommodate the larger production rates and lower recurring cost targets of (mega) constellation projects.

Benefits

Before this project, Airbus DS NL produced multiple Flexlinks for various applications. The existing production process cannot adequately accommodate large production volume and low recurring cost targets. Setting up an industrialized production environment allows production on set targets.

The experience gained enhances Airbus DS NL’s future capabilities in two ways:

  • Industrialization of production process
  • Design and implementation of the actual production facility

Features

Two elements have allowed Flexlink production in an economic and robust manner:

  • Industrialization of production process
  • Design and implementation of the actual production facility

System Architecture

Key elements of the Flexlink (as designed for the particular application) are:

  • The features of the interface plates (endfittings)
  • The orientation of the stacked layers of PG
  • The interfaces of the endfittings with the PG layers

These factors all have an impact on the thermal and mechanical performance of the Flexlink. ADSN successfully controls these factors in the volume-production process.

The production and test flow was broken down into steps and analysed as follows:

  • What is the confection of the supplied base material?
  • What is the supply chain is?
  • Which features have to be controlled?
  • What is the value added?
  • What is the optimal production sequence?
  • What are the risks and mitigation measures in each step?

This analysis led to an optimized design of the production and test flow.

Plan

The project had 5 phases:

  1. Revisit the concept production flow (as previously proposed)
  2. Design and manufacture/procure the tooling
  3. Procure the semi-finished parts
  4. Build and test 20 pilot Flexlinks
  5. Update the production and test flow and related documentation (as input for start of the mass production phase)

Current status

The project performed a Value Stream Mapping of the foreseen production flow as proposed towards Undisclosed Constellation. The analysis resulted in an optimized flow using a combination of semi-finished items and bespoke assembly tools.

The production and test flow has been documented in an Industrial Plan that covers:

  • Process FMECA
  • Production Flow Calculation
  • Operator Balance Charts
  • Documentation of the Manufacturing Baseline

A series of 20 Pilot Flexlink were produced and tested according to the newly designed flow. The Industrial Plan was updated, taking into account the learnings from the pilot production run. That formed the basis for the successful GEN1 (=FM) MRR with the customer. The project is now ready to start with the mass production phase.

Contacts

ESA Contacts

Status date

Friday, April 5, 2019 - 12:35