Dawn, Com&Sens and ESA partner on smart composite overwrapped pressure vessels for space

By March 19, 2024 April 19th, 2024 No Comments

Delft, Netherlands.

Dawn Aerospace continues to expand its satellite propulsion system offering by partnering with Com&Sens to work on smart composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) with a development contract from ESA’s ARTES Core Competitiveness programme.

The goal of the project is to develop lightweight and smart composite overwrapped pressure vessels for Dawn’s nitrous-based propulsion technology, using innovative embedded sensors. These tanks will be capable of supporting large satellite systems and GEO missions.

“COPVs are the logical next step in expanding our product offering. They are essential for larger satellites doing the most challenging, high-performance missions. Using smart technology during the development allows us to bring a better product to market, faster. We are excited to be able to offer non-toxic nitrous-based propulsion type to a market segment who have never had many options beyond hydrazine,”Dawn CEO, Stefan Powell said.

Propellants are traditionally stored in metal tanks in orbit, but size is constrained due to the weight of metals such as Inconel and titanium. COPVs offer a lightweight structure with high tensile strength and durability, making them ideal for withstanding the harsh conditions of space, including extreme temperatures and radiation.

Dawn is designing and manufacturing 30L tanks with an aluminium alloy liner, which are then overwrapped in carbon fibre and epoxy, in precise patterns, using a filament winding machine. Com&Sens is developing solutions for semi-automated sensor embedding during the COPV winding process and is digitizing the production & testing parameters using embedded strain & temperature FBG optical fiber sensors.

Using smart sensors in the process accelerates development and gives much deeper insight into the laminate “status”, hence quality, of the vessel during testing and production. Novel ways to embed heaters into the tank liner or overwrap to control pressure in the tanks are also being explored.

The companies aim to have the tank qualified in Q4 2024.

About Dawn

Dawn Aerospace is a leading supplier of turnkey green propulsion systems, with 76 thrusters in orbit on 16 satellites. Dawn’s pioneering non-toxic,  nitrous-based propulsion offers customers similar performance to hydrazine with dramatically reduced costs and improved safety. Nitrous-based chemical propulsion is now the fastest-growing in-space chemical propulsion type.

About Com&Sens

Com&Sens is the global frontrunner in digital manufacturing and structural health monitoring technologies for advanced composites structures using Fiber Bragg grating sensing technology, delivering digital fingerprint & actionable data of the complete lifecycle of structural composites, enabling safe, connected, and intelligent composites structures.

About ESA ARTES programme

ESA ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) aims to nurture innovation in the sector. The goal is to ensure the readiness of the industry to address commercial opportunities by focusing the activities on technological innovation in equipment, systems, and services for satellite communication.