The European Commission (EC) has selected Airbus has to explore the feasibility of spacecraft manufacturing in space.

As part of the Horizon 2020 Programme on space robotics technologies, Airbus will lead the PERASPERA In-Orbit Demonstration (PERIOD) project.

PERIOD aims to build a functional satellite in a future robotised orbital factory.

It primarily focuses on manufacturing major components, including antenna reflectors, assembly of spacecraft components and satellite payload replacements in orbit.

Other members of the project include seven European innovators, namely DFKI, EASN-TIS, GMV, GMV-SKY, ISISPACE, SENER Aeroespacial and Space Applications Services.

The two-year A/B1 phase study contract is valued at $3.5m (€3m).

Upon completion of the robotised orbital factory and the demonstrator, these are expected to be orbited via a launcher.

It would eventually be activated to begin manufacturing in orbit as a free flyer.

Airbus space exploration future projects head Silvio Sandrone said: “Airbus has been working on in-orbit manufacturing technologies for more than a decade and the PERIOD programme will help Europe move its combined technological know-how to the next level.

“Future large-scale space systems can only be manufactured and assembled in orbit, so it’s crucial that Europe is at the forefront of this key capability.”

Besides this project, Airbus is involved in various in-space research programmes, including the European Space Agency (ESA) funded Metal3D project and the MANTOS project.

Last November, Airbus secured the ESA contract for the TRUTHS A/B1 (system feasibility studies and pre-developments).