With a history of providing solutions to the space and aerospace industries, AST strives to aid companies with special projects and the research and development of components used in a variety of rocket and aircraft designs.
In the case of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), AST (named ASA at that point in time) was able to cooperate with Samtech international, JAXA and other entities to deliver an Okegawa mold copper lower main combustion chamber that was spin-formed into its final shape over three separate operations. JAXA called the results an enormous success and was able to overcome the difficulties in forming such a large rocket component. To read the full paper on the project (pages 4-5 highlight AST's involvement) please click here.
AST's advanced metal forming technologies give us an edge over our competition, and in some cases, have capabilities no other company has. In any case, AST is capable of working customers to create complex products for a variety of applications. Our highly flexible and efficient manufacturing approach allows AST to offer the shorter lead times and manufacturing accountability necessary with critically important research and development parts. AST can provide customers with a wide range of products, including but limited to: near-net shapes, rings, barrels, closures, chamber forgings, liners, domes, nozzles, thrust cones, fuel sumps, case forgings, shells, tubes.
From selection of exotic alloys, to the designing and producing of tooling in-house, AST provides the means for entities like JAXA and SpaceX to manage their budgets by offering pricing unrivaled in the industry. As a result of our technological prowess and knowledgeable staff, AST is able to move projects to production on a condensed timeline whilst offering customers a range of unique and exotic alloys, and the capability of performing non-destructive inspection on all of our products before shipment. Finally, a rigorous and TÜV certified quality system realizes reliability for our customers.
AST currently produces liners and liner pre-forms for various customers producing Carbon Overwrapped Pressure Vessels (COPVs) for applications carrying highly pressurized fuel gasses in liquid form. Our products are used in rockets flying supply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and sending commercial or government satellites into orbit.
AST has been the pioneer at developing seamless aluminum liners and tubes in diameters of 20” and above. In many markets, we are the single source for leading product initiatives by our customers.
No matter the shape, material, or in many cases the size, AST is prepared to aid ambitious projects with our unique equipment and expertise.
Another project AST is proud to be a supplier for, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink system will be a constellation of communication satellites that are designed to provide high-speed broadband internet access around the entire globe. The project is slated for a 2020 launch of operations in a limited capacity, but will be fully operational after all satelites have been placed into orbit. The goal of the system is to provide affordable internet access globally, especially to mid to low-population (rural) areas that have never had access to the internet before.
The project follows in the footsteps of SpaceX’s first ever partner, Iridium, also a satellite telecommunications company. However, Iridium only has a fleet of 81 (75 for orbit, the rest as back-ups) satellites, whereas SpaceX plans to launch 12,000 for their satellite constellation, making SpaceX’s endeavor the largest planned constellation in history. In February 2018, the company launched two Microsat-2 test satellites for the constellation, dubbed Tintin A and Tintin B. According to the FCC, they are the first two of the approved 4,425 satellites to be launched and SpaceX has granted authority by the FCC to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) bands to provide global Internet connectivity. SpaceX has six years to launch half of it’s first 4,425 planned satellites, or face a freeze on the number of satellites they’re allowed to launch into low-Earth orbit. In total, SpaceX will have nine years to launch all of the satellites into their low-earth, non-geostationary orbits. Furthermore, concern from NASA and the FCC about the sheer number of satellites to be launched placed a strict deorbiting regulation upon SpaceX, asking for over 90% reliability of being able to deorbit the satellites. SpaceX responded to the concern, noting that the satellites would be deorbited within a year of completion of their mission. The regulation was placed upon them due to the growing concerns about space trash; the dead satellites, abandoned rocket bodies and other debris (including live satellites) that surround our planet. Currently, there are an estimated 500,000 or so smaller orbital debris (between one and 10 centimeters in diameter) and about 21,000 larger pieces (larger than 10 centimeters) spinning around Earth, according to NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office. 4,256 of these objects are human-made satellites orbiting the Earth, of which about 1,149 are still working. Most of these are fairly small, ranging from tiny CubeSats that are only four inches on each side to communications satellites that can be over 100 feet long.
While final design is unknown, SpaceX has released (via the FCC) details of its test units launched in February. The following was stated by SpaceX about the test units, according to their FCC application:
“The primary structure for the Microsat-2a and -2b test spacecraft will be a box design measuring 1.1m x 0.7m x 0.7m (3.6ft x 2.3ft x 2.3ft) and carries the spacecraft flight computer, power system components, attitude determination and control components, propulsion components, GPS receiver, and broadband, telemetry, and command receivers and transmitters. The primary bus is mounted on the payload truss system, which also carries communications panels, inter-satellite optical link transmitters and receivers, star trackers, and a telemetry antenna. There are two 2x8 meter (6.56ft x 26.24ft) solar panels. Each demonstration spacecraft has a total mass of approximately 400kg (881.849 lbs). The attitude of each spacecraft is 3-axis stabilized, and is dynamically controlled over each orbit to maintain attitude position for two pointing modes of operation: broadband antenna (antennas to nadir for testing) and solar array (solar arrays facing sun for charging). Power is provided by solar panels designed to deliver sufficient power at the predicted end of spacecraft life to not impair any test objectives. The Thermal Control System ensures that components are kept within operational temperature ranges.” The satellites are said to have an operational lifespan of between five to seven years.
Advanced Structural Technologies will be providing the pre-form cylinder liners that will be used in the fueling of both the rocket and the satellites.