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Development of a safe, sustainable, and performant space welding unit



Prime contractor
Organisational Unit
11 March 2024

Duration: 18 months


Initiatives dedicated to developing on-orbit manufacturing and assembly of spacecraft have recently been conducted in Europe, to promote Europe's position as a leader in the growing space economy. This includes the ESA Clean Space team's "On-orbit Manufacturing Assembly and Recycling" (OMAR) or the EU's PERASPERA In-Orbit Demonstration (PERIOD) project. While those initiatives identify the most promising business applications through a system-approach, it lacks an incremental technology maturation plan to reach them and in particular, dedicated efforts to develop and mature the individual manufacturing technology building blocks. This proposed Early Technology Development activity aims to address this by developing a novel electron beam (EB) space welding process for use in on-orbit structural assembly operations. While welding on orbit has been proposed and demonstrated before, a number of key safety issues (contamination from generated spatter and fumes, thermal & deformation management) have not been resolved. This has prevented on-orbit welding from becoming a reliable and cost-effective joining solution, which are prerequisites to democratizing on-orbit assembly processes and enabling a sustainable and high-performance space infrastructure. In this activity, a welding process compatible with on-orbit structure assembly using robotic welding operations will be developed and demonstrated, focusing on quality, safety, and sustainability. This will include demonstrating a novel spatter and fumes management system for the space welding process, as well as developing specific strategies for the EB welding of thin plates representative of use-case joint designs. The selected application case for the process development is the on-orbit assembly of a GEO ComSat antenna reflector structure.

Contract number
OSIP Idea Id
Related OSIP Campaign
Open Channel
Main application area
Generic for multiple space applications
Development of a safe, sustainable, and performant space welding unit