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World space week

World Space Week was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999 and is celebrated in October every year. Its aim is to bring space education and outreach to the general public through contributions from space agencies, aerospace companies, institutions and museums. This year, World Space Week was dedicated to highlighting the contribution of the space sector to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

We sat down with Kurt Doppelbauer, Vice President Strategic Sales & Business Development, Business Unit Aerospace at TTTech, to talk about “Sustainability and Space” and how TTTech Aerospace contributes to it.

How does the space sector handle the topic of “sustainability”?

At the beginning of the space era, the 1950s and 1960s, sustainability was not a topic of consideration. It was about learning how to make it to space. Now, decades later, we are at the stage where we have the technologies and the equipment needed to achieve this goal and we can concentrate on improving them. In this way, space flight is not so different from the automotive sector, which is also focusing on hybrid cars and more sustainable fuels for cleaner, more sustainable transport and mobility. The same is true for the space sector:

The key here is reusability. The European Space Agency (ESA) is researching reusable rockets and launchers as part of its Future Launchers Preparatory program. ArianeGroup, which builds the new European launcher generation Ariane 6, has recently announced a completely reusable launcher stage for cargo and crew missions that will be compatible with Ariane 6 and future launchers. Private space companies like Space X are also developing spacecraft and launch vehicles that can fly to space multiple times.

Reusing launchers is a smart way to reduce cost for space exploration, both in terms of research and in terms of human space flight, even if the development and manufacturing of reusable equipment is more costly. This is due to the fact that it needs to withstand reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, i.e. will need many of the same properties as a space capsule transporting humans (e.g. a heat shield and additional guidance, communication and propulsion systems to keep it on course and allow a safe landing).

Reusing spacecraft and launchers also reduces the amount of space debris. We have seen that this can be a huge issue for space flight in general and in particular for crewed missions. As we enter the next era of space exploration, we need to find a way to deal with existing debris and ensure that we consider this aspect in future missions.

We also need to consider another dimension to sustainability in the space sector and that is how research and developments for this market can benefit life on Earth. Many of the technologies and products tested in space are later used to improve our daily lives. Satellites that provide exact weather forecasts, monitor climate change, and enable and improve communication are one example. Other products that were developed thanks to space exploration and improve sustainability in our daily lives are LED lights, water purification systems and home insulation.

How does TTTech Aerospace contribute to better use of resources in the space sector?

We provide software and hardware solutions to the space sector. Our networked computing platforms serve as the brain that reliably connects systems on board of spacecraft and launch vehicles via our data network, the nervous system.

In spacecraft, every millimeter and every gram counts. Space is limited and the heavier the launcher or capsule, the less payload it can carry. Efficiently using the space means that fewer rocket launches are needed overall, and lower weight can directly impact the amount of fuel needed and thus the cost and environmental impact of the launch. This is why manufacturers and their contractors are carefully considering the size and weight of electrical components and the amount of cabling.

TTTech Aerospace’s technology and products are designed to be compact, robust and flexible, playing their part to reduce size, weight and material cost for the electronics system and the computing network. A side benefit to compact electronics is their robustness, which makes them better equipped for harsh space environments.

Our networking technology, TTEthernet®, allows for sending safety-critical command and control data as well as non-critical messages (e.g. video streams) on one network. This reduces the cabling needed when setting up the data network on a spacecraft and results in lower weight, even allowing for easier maintenance. TTEthernet® networks are used on several programs and missions that TTTech Aerospace is contributing to, such as NASA’s Orion spacecraft and the European Service Module (ESM) provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as on NASA’s lunar space station Gateway and in the new European launcher generation Ariane 6. TTTech Aerospace and its space hardware manufacturing partners also provide compact hardware solutions for the Gateway that connect electronics on the space station to the TTEthernet® network.

TTTech Aerospace is part of the TTTech Group, which is active in markets like automotive, mobile machinery, aerospace, smart manufacturing and automation. Are there learnings regarding sustainability from other markets that can be applied to the space industry?

Yes, certainly. There are many synergies across markets. Proven aerospace network technologies can be applied to mass markets like automotive and manufacturing and, vice versa, automotive-grade components can be used in aerospace development products to bring down costs and improve availability of components for the testing stages.

Our solutions are based on Deterministic Ethernet, which offers the benefits of standard, widely available Ethernet while adding a deterministic/scheduling component to increase the reliability of message transfers in the data network. Deterministic Ethernet networking technology can be used across industries, from automotive, to aerospace, to the energy sector. Whatever we learn from one market can be applied as we further develop our solutions.

TTTech Group is a group of companies but what we are doing internally is also reflected in the ecosystems around us. Sustainability in any industry cannot be achieved by one company alone – it requires an ecosystem where every partner, prime and sub-supplier works as efficiently and sustainably as possible to improve sustainability in the industry as a whole.


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