2 May 2017 – Thales Alenia Space announced today 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. With a global budget of around 20 M€, this first of its kind facility in Europe is intended to become the showcase of Thales Alenia Space for Industry 4.0 manufacturing. It complements well the activities of Leonardo’s centre 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.. The 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 underpin the process. New techniques include robotized assembly of panels, digital data management and traceability, online tests and inspections, as well as augmented reality. People and machines share the workplace, for a harmonious blend of cognitive and physical capabilities, thus opening new possibilities in terms of greater efficiency and agility. Relevant and fast smart data analysis from all sources provides added value and competitiveness: 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, 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.
“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, said Jean Loïc Galle, President and Chief Executive Officer of Thales Alenia Space. “This project is a key milestone in the execution of our strategy aimed at expanding our industrial footprint in Europe in full complementarity with our existing facilities. We enlarge our global offer, transform our production methods and gain in agility to meet the needs of the fast-evolving market in which we 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.