Defence technology company XTEK, a specialist in composite materials and structures, has signed a memorandum of understanding with space company Skykraft to jointly develop a range of new small spacecraft and launcher systems.
Both companies are based in Canberra. For XTEK, this represents a first significant step into the space sector. XTEK managing director Philippe Odouard said the agreement with Skykraft would provide an opportunity to expand their target market.
“This deal represents a significant commercialisation milestone for our composite capabilities and provides us with a good opportunity to work closely with Skykraft on some exciting space solutions,” he said.
“Importantly, it provides a valuable opportunity for us to expand our capabilities and presence beyond defence and into the growing Australian space composites sector.”
Skykraft grew out of the University of NSW Canberra Space and comprises a team of academic and professional staff, specialising in satellite research, design, manufacture, testing, launch and ongoing orbital maintenance.
The company has $20 million invested and has conducted eight satellite missions.
“Skykraft has the experience and skills necessary to conceptualise, innovate and design, build, test and operate entire space missions including constellations. Our area of speciality is spacecraft up to 180 kilograms in size that allow the delivery of real world actionable information,” Skykraft says on its website.
Under the new agreement terms, XTEK and Skykraft will work together to develop the hardware and identify opportunities for supply of products from XTEK’s production facility.
XTEK will develop advanced composite fibre-reinforced-plastic required for the spacecraft, and will manage design and processing technologies of components.
The company has already started work on a lightweight carbon fibre satellite structure for Skykraft. That would be produced using XTclave composite curing technology delivered from its engineering facility in South Australia.
XTEK initially developed this technology for producing advanced ballistic protection laminates for soldier body armour and it enables production of lighter, stronger and stiffer composite items.
XTEK’s main business is in the defence sector but it has been increasingly interested in using its composites capability for other applications.
For space, the advantages are high strength to weight ratios and a reduction in outgassing. That’s where plastics release volatile gases and is a particular problem in the vacuum of space.
Odouard said XTEK planned to create a space composites design and production capability at a new factory.
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