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Mechanism industrialization

Solar array deployment mechanism development and space industry requirements verification

Mechanisms for unfolding of solar panels

Project duration: 2011

Project manager: Petr Valášek

The task of the project was to manufacture and test three pieces of mechanisms for unfolding of solar panels on a satellite into a desired position (Solar Array Deployment Mechanism). The manufacturing had to comply with defined processes and meet all technical parameters for space. Because these parts are critically important for the energy supply of the satellite, the requirements on their quality and performance are high.

One of the goals of the company is to implement space projects as industrial activities. This project should proof the capacity of Czech industry to manufacture space mechanisms for a deployment in space, but also the correct setting of all necessary processes. This meant for the company to create completely new internal processes in the areas of project management and control, product assurance and to meet the qualification standards of specific processes.

In the frame of the project we made three pieces of mechanisms, which met all demanding tests. The project was realized in cooperation with ESA and a French company Thales Alenia Space, which played a role of a strategic partner for potential future cooperation.

About Frentech Aerospace

Frentech is Czech company with almost 90 employees that since its foundation in 1994 provides precisely machined mechanical parts and subsystems from single prototypes to series production. Since 1997 the company has been supplying the aeronautical industry and based on its experiences and knowledge of specific processes it also started to manufacture for space. After the Czech Republic had joined ESA, Frentech got actively involved into the process of corporate education with the aim of winning contracts for space subsystems.

The big success was our project for supplies for ALMA radio-telescope of the European Southern Observatory in the Atacama Desert, which became a starting point towards other space businesses. Frentech invests regularly into new technologies and control systems and keeps its competitiveness. To become more independent in space business, the company built two clean rooms and a thermal chamber for testing of mechanisms and qualification processes.

What would you name as main benefits of the project to you and your company?

“In this project our company gained valuable experiences, which we draw from also in other space projects. Based on gained experiences we invested into necessary technologies, strengthened our technical know-how, invested into corporate education, improved our quality assurance system, created new company documentation describing specific processes, defined our configuration and information management and product assurance management. The important task was also studying of the ECSS standards. Several months after the project has finished, the company Frentech signed a contract for a supply of almost 500 solar array deployment mechanisms for 81 IRIDIUM NEXT satellites in total value of 1,9 million EUR. Historically, this was the biggest commercial contract in space business ever signed in Czech Republic.”