Sunday, August 07, 2016

A Preview of the 14th European Conference on Spacecraft Structures Materials and Environmental Testing

        By Henry Stewart

Rapidly advancing manufacturing technologies like 3D printing and composite materials are driving the evolution of new spacecraft today, along with related developments in areas such as big data, miniaturization and automation.

Constantinos Stavrinides, one of the ESCCMET 2016 conference chairmen, addressing the opening session of the 12th ECSSMET at ESA – ESTEC Noordwijk, in the Netherlands, on March 20th, 2012. He's also worked with Oxfordshire, England based Reaction Engines, to validate concepts for the single-stage-to-orbit Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE). He shares the committee chairman role for ECSSMET 2016 with Pilippe Landiech,  who works in the Orbital Projects Sub-Directorate at CNES. Photo c/o ESA.

In an effort to highlight European firms and organizations with expertise in this area, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES), the national space agency of France, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the national center for aerospace, energy and transportation research for Germany, have come together to organize the 14th European Conference on Spacecraft Structures Materials and Environmental Testing (ECSSMET), which will be held from September 27th - 30th in Toulouse, France.

Attendees comprise the top experts from across European industry, government and academia. The program and technical committee also includes representatives from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), along with significant international participation from China, India, USA, Korea, Turkey and other nations.

The conference program consists of over 200 sessions, covering European advances in spacecraft manufacturing with a broad representation of delegates from institutions, agencies and companies across Europe.

From 1975 until 2001, thirteen conferences were organized by Princeton University which focused on the challenges and opportunities of space based manufacturing. The original events were organized in cooperation with the Space Studies Institute, a not-for-profit organization which grew out of the interest generated by physicist and activist Gerard K. O’Neill’s vision of human colonies in space. and how to build them. For course, no one in 2001 was talking about 3D printing, composite materials or big data. Given that it's been fifteen years since the last space manufacturing conference, perhaps its time to organize another. Graphics c/o NSS.

The primary themes to be considered during presentations, round tables and workshop sessions are outlined on the ECSSMET website. They include:
  • Mechanical architecture, design and engineering
  • Structural dynamics and static loads including shock, hyper-velocity impact and micro-vibration
  • Random and acoustic vibration, analysis and testing
  • Environmental testing and test prediction
  • Structural materials applications (metallic, composite, ceramics) with a dedicated session addressing design and verification of 3D printed/Additive Manufactured parts
  • Thermo-elastically stable structures
  • Damping concepts
  • Inflatable / deployable structure
  • Stochastic analysis and robust design approaches
  • In flight experiments and flight data
  • Damage tolerance and fatigue
So far, the website lists 18 confirmed exhibitors that will be showcasing hardware, software and other systems at the conference. These include Siemens, Altair, ATG Europe, Dimione Systems, Prenscia and European Test Services. Official proceedings from the event are scheduled to be published on or before December 2016.

The conference is being held this year in Toulouse, which is also known as “ville rose” or pink city. The name is a reference to the city's characteristic terra cotta brick architecture. Toulouse is also a burgeoning European high-tech hub and hosts a significant number of leading-edge aerospace and information technology enterprises as well as distinguished research institutions.

Confirmed ECSSMET 2016 Exhibitors. Screenshot c/o ECSSMET.

Among those is the CNES Toulouse Space Centre. As outlined in the September 27th, 2015 Insider Monkey post on the "11 Fastest Growing Cities in Europe," Toulouse is 7th on the list of the fastest growing cities in Europe. The venue, Pierre Baudis Congress Centre, is a modern facility at the edge of Compans Caffarelli Park in central Toulouse.

All and all, it's an appropriate venue to highlight the best of the current crop of companies pushing the newest technologies in spacecraft manufacturing. 


Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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