Magna Parva has won a contract from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to develop the technology to allow large structures such as radio antennas and solar cells to be manufactured in space.

Prior to that however Magna Parva have to develop “an engineering qualification model of a system to manufacture large structures in space”. The MoD’s latest program called ‘Affordable & Revolutionary Space’ aims to investigate and develop novel satellite technologies.

Typically, structures such as antennas and solar arrays are manufactured before being sent into space. But the mass and volume of these structures has significant launch requirements. By manufacturing in space, the company claims that with a deployed length to packed volume ratio of greater than 1000:1, it is possible to achieve an order of magnitude increase in the structures to be deployed on satellites.

Research from space requires larger spaced sensors for increased sensitivity and enhanced directivity, as well as alternatives to formation flying for small satellites. Larger antennas and solar panels should enable more precise earth observation operations, and enhancing satellite communications systems via small satellites.

Neither the MoD nor Magna Parva have voiced concerns over debris from manmade objects in space returning to the planet’s surface.