Automatic Fiber Placement Machine

Innovating for tomorrow

Beyond Gravity manages innovation projects using a holistic approach that includes cross-divisional activities as well as initiatives boosted by each division to enhance its product portfolio and competitiveness. Cross-divisional innovation is centered around the topics of AI applications, digital twins, and identifying new business models.

The selection and management of cross-divisional innovation activities within Beyond Gravity is steered and monitored by a cross-divisional committee with representatives from the divisions, Finance, IT and People & Culture. The goal is to initiate and promote projects that improve the company’s capabilities regarding market developments and trends and increase efficiency, profitability and sustainability. 

Several focus areas have been determined for the coming months, and targeted projects are initiated and monitored based on a milestone-driven approach. Beyond Gravity also works with various partners from universities, public entities like the European Space Agency (ESA) as well as startups. In addition, each division funds its own internal R&D activities to maintain Beyond Gravity’s competitive advantages and maintain its leading position in the market.

Living innovation

Beyond Gravity actively nurtures an innovative mindset and regularly organizes internal innovation competitions for its engineers. The so-called Space Race, which includes solving specific technical challenges, has a long tradition. In 2023, engineers from different sites and divisions spent over two months developing concepts for new locking mechanisms for reusable payload fairings. In the Lithography division, an innovation competition was also held with the aim of promoting new ideas in technology for the semi-conductor market and creating an environment of innovation and creativity. Some of these ideas, such as flexible hinges, unified data structures or VR training, are now being further pursued internally in dedicated R&D projects.

In the Launchers division, particularly in the area of large composite structures like payload fairings, innovative approaches are constantly being explored to align projects with future needs of customers, to develop new products, or to improve existing products or processes. Particular attention is paid to cost reduction, design simplification to improve profitability and adaptations to new customers or product requirements. In the following, two of these activities are showcased in more detail: Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) on the one hand and our contribution to ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program (FLPP) on the other.

Automated Fiber Placement for payload fairings

The current manufacturing processes for our launch vehicle structures are largely based on the manual placement of carbon fiber pre-impregnated textiles. The idea of automating this process (Automated Fiber Placement; AFP) is not entirely new as Beyond Gravity has applied the AFP technology at its Linköping site to produce satellite dispensers, and it has been used in the aircraft industry for years. This approach is becoming increasingly attractive, and the significant up-front investment involved is justified by the large commercial customer orders in 2022 and 2023, the expected capacity requirements, and the need to increase production rates to meet customer demands for shorter lead times and cost reductions. Production trials and feasibility assessments are currently underway to assess the automated production of composite sandwich structures.


Future Payload Fairings

In the framework of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program (FLPP), Beyond Gravity is working on a Health Monitoring System (HMS) for launch vehicle structures. The aim is to provide a detailed real-time representation of various environmental parameters of the structure (e.g. strain, temperature, pressure, acceleration) during its entire life cycle, i.e. from production and testing to the actual mission to the refurbishment for reuse of the structure. We are currently developing a functional system that evaluates environmental conditions during flight and will be applied and tested into a demonstrator on a representative scale. 

As part of the FLPP, Beyond Gravity is also working on the development and improvement of a new separation system for future medium-sized fairings. This is done in collaboration with RevoAI – a promising young company from Beyond Gravity’s start-up startup program. Specifically, RevoAI supports Beyond Gravity in the assessment of the benefits of artificial intelligence for the development of space structures.


Reusable PLF Concept

Reusable payload fairing

An innovative concept from Beyond Gravity for reusable payload fairings promises to revolutionize space launches: After releasing the second stage with the payload, the fairing can be closed again, returns to Earth with the first stage of the launcher and can be reused – significantly reducing costs and the use of carbon-intensive raw materials.

We help young entrepreneurs, our employees, and our customers ​to advance through the creation of breakthrough business ideas.

Launchpad program – a look into the future

In October 2022, Beyond Gravity launched its own startup incubator program called Launchpad. Over the past few months, many young companies have worked with Beyond Gravity’s experts on exciting and promising projects. Those collaborations have resulted in valuable projects, for example with RevoAI (see main text) or with Gate Space in the field of propulsion systems for satellites. Also, the collaboration with the IT startup Side Effects resulted in a long-term cooperation. Its Digital 3D Twin Platform makes it much easier to create comprehensive 3D documentation and has already been implemented in Beyond Gravity’s lithography production processes. In the future, the Launchpad program will be further integrated into into Beyond Gravity’s holistic innovation management process.