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Satnews Daily
May 2nd, 2017

Thales Alenia Space's New Facility Will Automate Building Electricity Generating Cells for Satellite Solar Panels

Cannes, May 2, 2017 – Thales Alenia Space announced that it will build a new facility in Hasselt, Belgium, dedicated to the automated manufacturing of photovoltaic assemblies (PVA), the electricity generating cells on satellite solar panels. 

Thales Alenia Space is going to be one busy place beginning with building a new facility in Hasselt, Belgium, dedicated to the automated manufacturing of photovoltaic assemblies (PVA), which are the electricity generating cells on satellite solar panels.

With a global budget of around 20 Million euros, this first of its kind facility will be setting a precedent in Europe and is intended to become the showcase of Thales Alenia Space for Industry 4.0 manufacturing. It complements well the activities of Leonardo’s center of excellence in Nerviano (Italy) for PVA manufacturing where photovoltaic assemblies for all the major European Space Agency (ESA) and Italian Space Agency (ASI) programs are designed and produced.he new industry 4.0 manufacturing facility will enable the Space Alliance and its shareholders to provide highly competitive PVA solutions for all satellites’ segments.

Thales Alenia Space decided to develop the production of photovoltaic assemblies by using innovative technologies, while capitalizing on the skills of the teams that created the process.

Some of the new techniques include:

  • robotized assembly of panels
  • digital data management and traceability
  • online tests and inspections
  • augmented reality

People and machines will share the workplace, that will create a blend of cognitive and physical capabilities resulting in greater efficiency and agility: Thales Alenia Space focuses on mastering of technologies and data all the way through its engineering and manufacturing processes.

The space industry today is undergoing a major transformation, including the advent of new players and new initiatives leading to significant industrial disruption. While innovation keeps on playing a key role in a competitive environment, it is imperative that companies need to optimize their processes and transform their manufacturing operations to be able to meet market needs in terms of cost reduction and accelerated production rates.

Jean LoХc Galle, President and Chief Executive Officer of Thales Alenia Space said with the construction of a one-of-a-kind center of excellence in automated manufacturing, Thales Alenia Space confirms its position at the forefront of digital innovation and its ability to accompany its partners through the transformational evolution of the space industry. This factory will be the first software automated one in the world for this kind of space products. This project is a key milestone in the execution of the strategy aimed at expanding their industrial footprint in Europe in full complementarity with the existing facilities. The company will enlarge their global offer, transform their production methods and gain in agility to meet the needs of the fast-evolving market in which they operate.

The photovoltaic assemblies will be manufactured in-house at the facility of Thales Alenia Space in Hasselt. They will be then integrated into solar arrays at the company’s site in Cannes, France. Solar arrays are an essential part of the Spacebus telecommunication satellites made by Thales Alenia Space.

Today’s telecom operators demand flexible and agile solutions, innovative and reliable products, real-time tracking of the production process, a high degree of traceability and shorter cycles. They are rolling out large-scale projects such as mega-constellations that call for disruptive technologies and entail unprecedented challenges in terms of both technology and production rates. Through its Industry 4.0 approach, Thales Alenia Space is gearing up to meet these challenges. Furthermore, the construction of this new facility fits perfectly with Thales Alenia Space’s strategic plan, involving an expanded footprint in key countries that are investing heavily in the space sector.