Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales 67% and Leonardo 33%, has inaugurated a new Friction Stir Welding facility at one of its production sites in Turin, which will double production capacity of pressurized modules, for the production of the future orbiting and surface infrastructures.
The only company in Europe to use this type of processing for pressurized habitation modules, Thales Alenia Space introduced friction welding technology in 2015, with a first operating facility used for the production of Cygnus, the pressurized cargo modules for the refueling of the International Space Station, an extremely complex type of structure, which enables exploration and human space flight.
The new facility employs an innovative welding process that allows greater processing precision, an improvement in mechanical strength, energy savings and a reduction in costs and production times. Based on the simple physical friction between a welding tool, suitably shaped, and the pieces to be welded, this welding method eliminates or reduces the negative aspects of arc welding, maintaining the mechanical characteristics of the material, and improving the quality of the processing.
The investment in the construction of this infrastructure is in line with international space policies and with the Lunar and Martian exploration objectives of the main Space Agencies, as well as the commercialization of space by public and private investors. Thales Alenia Space, thanks to this new investment, will improve the production of the pressurized modules, in particular the supply of the three key components of the Lunar Gateway: I-HAB, ESPRIT and HALO, the two modules of the first commercial space station designed by Axiom Space, and the Cygnus modules, crucial for the safe supply of the ISS since 2013, to name some of the programs in which the company plays a leading development role.
“As worldwide leader for pressurized modules, Thales Alenia Space is complying the strong growth in demand by investing in innovation and development," said Massimo Comparini, Senior Executive Vice President, Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space. "With the two friction stir welding facilities, Thales Alenia Space, confirms its ability to face the new challenges requested for Lunar and Martian exploration, commercialization of space as well as its agility to interpret the industrial future of space."