Building Massive Antennas, Drones, and Spacecraft | Orbital Composites

Episode 38 of S³

The same company, Orbital Composites, is building:

  • Carbon fiber printing robots

  • A 200m gyroscope for the Moon

  • A new kind of high-speed drone

  • Hypersonic materials, and more...

Let’s dive in to Orbital Composites with Cofounders Cole Neilsen-Cole (CTO) and Amolak Badesha (CEO) for Episode 38 of S³.

A new way to print everything

"There are three pillars of society: transportation, communication, and energy. With advanced materials, especially with composites and metamaterials, we are able to transition all of these things into wireless domain,” Amolak explained during the episode.

Orbital specializes in printing with carbon-carbon composites, a type of carbon fiber reinforced matrix known for extreme strength, low weight, and heat resistance.

Orbital's process dramatically reduces time & cost to produce these parts.

This allows rapid production of high-quality composite parts with complex geometries... Like a shoe.

Orbital's Additive Manufacturing Compression Molding (AMCM) tech, developed with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, combines the flexibility of 3D printing with the precision of compression molding.

The Orbital S-Cell Robot

Their Orbital S system is an industrial robotic 3D printer built for mass production of large end-use parts.

Uniquely, it's designed to work on the ground and in space.

As Cole put it, "If I build a 3D printer for space, does it print stuff that I want on the ground? Would I use this printer on the ground because it's very profitable?"

But the real mind-blowing potential is in space. Orbital is developing systems to manufacture and assemble large structures like antennas directly in orbit. This in-space manufacturing could vastly reduce the cost & complexity of building space infrastructure.

Watch the episode, they’re doing a lot

Orbital is partnering with leaders like Axiom and the US Space Force to apply their manufacturing tech to space applications. The goal is to accelerate crucial space technologies like satellite broadband & space-based solar power.

Cole explained: "If I could take the wires, the carbon fibers that I'm laying down with my robot and that same tool can peel them right back off my airplane and put them back on a spool, then that is a very advanced process."

Printing complex carbon-carbon parts with robots, in space... it sounds like sci-fi but they're making it real. The potential impact on the future of space exploration & on-orbit manufacturing is immense.

On a personal note, filming with Orbital was a powerful reminder that the future is in the hands of driven, ambitious people working on hard problems. As Amolak said, "It's very seldom you get to work on something that can have such an incredible impact to provide renewable energy, transportation, and global communications."

Keep on building the future,

— Jason