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Today, sending satellites into orbit is a large and global industry. In Sweden you will find the world leading supplier of Payload Adapters and Separation Systems for commercial launch vehicles who manufacture systems compatible with all commercial satellite buses in the world today. Market leadership means constant investigation of ways to develop rocket science even further which has now led to new ways of processing their thick carbon fibre materials.
The purpose of the Payload Adapter and Separation System is to bring a satellite into orbit. The systems ensure that satellite and rocket remain securely attached to one another during the tough journey into space, and then deliver the valuable payloads into orbit with precision.
Payload Adapters are made out of aluminum and carbon fibre technology with the two parts thoroughly bolted together into one big cone, several metres in diameter. The design has an impressive performance with over 600 separations carried out in orbit and a 100% success rate.
But calculations have shown that Payload Adapter Systems in 100% carbon fibre would improve weight and stiffness significantly, a design that could increase both rocket efficiency and investment payback. Instead of bolting the two different materials together finger joints can be used, the same design as on glulam beams enabling a big contact surface, a strong joint and suitable when joining similar materials.
Since neither milling nor sawing was applicable for processing this kind of design Water Jet Sweden was contacted to conduct live waterjet test cutting.
"Complex carbon fibre geometries are generally difficult to process efficiently without using waterjet cutting technology," explained Tony Ryd, CTO at Water Jet Sweden AB.
The test was performed by cutting 47 mm long finger joints in a cone shaped 12 mm thick carbon fibre material with a circumference of 7,2 metres. The incision needed a tolerance of 0.1 mm around the circle, to be able to safely be glued together so a highly advanced FiveX machine system from Water Jet Sweden was chosen for the test.
"Our FiveX machine system is unique since it has a combination of extreme precision and a full 3D abrasive cutting ability. It is specially designed for this kind of advanced applications, cutting with a repetition accuracy of +/- 0.025 mm, " commented Tony Ryd.
The test was successful and gave to clear conclusions. First of all, it proved that full carbon Payload Adapters are possible on future launch vehicles, and secondly, it showed that abrasive waterjet cutting is a suitable cutting technology for carbon materials and future rocket science.
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