ASTROBEAT logo hi res

Advanced Spacecraft Technology for Repairing of Broken External Armor using cold-welding adhesion Treatment

Countdown to launch to the ISS

ASTROBEAT proposes for the first time the investigation of the cold-welding phenomenon for use in spacecraft hull repair following a hypervelocity impact by space debris. An experimental test rig will be tested and qualified, at TRL 6, on the International Space Station, thanks to an environment providing for an extended period of time micro-gravity conditions.
The project is led by Dr Leonardo Barilaro, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering a MCAST – The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology.

It has been shown that similar metallic materials can fuse or weld at ambient temperatures provided that there are sufficiently high contact forces. In the Space environment, this fusion is aided by the fact that the joint surfaces do not re-oxide after wear and, as a consequence, atomic diffusion of the metal occurs at lower contact forces. Cold-welding in the Space environment was first analyzed in the 1960s as an adverse reaction from wear and it was attributed to be the cause of failure of certain mechanisms. This research, however, will investigate the potential of cold-welding for use in spacecraft hull perforation repair.

Spacecraft shield and hull perforation may occur after a hypervelocity impact due to micrometeoroids or space debris. In-situ repair from inside the vehicle is preferable due to the pressure differences. Evaluating a paradigm shift in cold-welding adhesion, this project aims at developing a test apparatus to apply custom repair patches and will investigate its adhesion properties. The recovery of the payload will allow further metallurgical analysis of the cold-welded joint.

After the terrestrial development and validation using a vacuum chamber (first phase), the core activity is the design and testing of the experimental setup and its integration as a payload to carry out the activity onboard the International Space Station. The test rig will be able to simulate the hull breach in terms of crack and opening and will be capable of applying the repair patch and monitoring its performance (second phase).

Dr Leonardo Barilaro is also coordinating the Space Art project that will send new music onboard the International Space Station. The main feature of this initiative is its interdisciplinary approach, utilizing music as a powerful language to transcend cultural barriers and reach diverse audiences beyond formal education systems.

The Department of Aviation at the Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology (MCAST) and the Aerospace, Mechanical and Electronic Department at South East Technological University (SETU) will collaborate with the Centre of Studies and Activities for Space (CISAS) “G. Colombo” of the University of Padova and the Skyup Academy, Italy for the second phase of this research project. Moreover, MCAST started a prestigious collaboration with NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), facilitated by H.E. Ambassador of Malta in UAE, Madam Maria Camilleri Calleja.

The MCAST team is composed of Mark Spiteri, Steve Buhagiar and Luke Falzon. The SETU team includes Dr Mark Wylie, co-author of the idea of using cold-welding adhesion in Space, and Theeba Shafeeg.

ASTROBEAT (SUP-2023-09) is a EUR 125,000 project financed by the Malta Council for Science & Technology through the Space Upstream Programme.

The International Space Station payload opportunity is being made available by Nanoracks, through its Space Act Agreement with NASA’s U.S. National Lab.


ISS for astrobeat-min nanorack nanolab-min Picture 1




Dr Leonardo Barilaro, known as the Space Pianist, is also coordinating the “Space Art” project that will send new music compositions to the International Space Station.

To further amplify the project’s impact, Dr Barilaro secured the participation of Grammy-nominated cellist and composer Tina Guo and world-renowned producer Steve Mazzaro. Notably, Tina Guo and Steve Mazzaro have been collaborating for several years with Hans Zimmer, the legendary composer who created, just to mention a few examples, iconic scores like Interstellar, Dune and Inception. Their involvement in ASTROBEAT significantly enhances the project’s public outreach potential both at a national and international level. With them, Leonardo created “Moon Seeds”, the soundtrack for the ASTROBEAT project. “Moon Seeds” and another experimental composition of him, “Black Sun”, were recorded at NYUAD Arts Center‘s state-of-the-art facilities, under the guidance of Prof. Matteo Marciano, leader of the student label Gazelien Records.


Leonardo Barilaro with Grammy-nominated cellist Tina Guo on the set of ‘Moon Seeds’

Collaboration with NYUAD
The prestigious collaboration between MCAST and NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) was initiated and is supported by the Director of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Science, Prof. Andrea Macciò. His Center will collaborate MCAST in the post-flight data analysis.



Moreover, NYUAD Arts and Humanities Division, under the guidance of Prof. Carlos Guedes, is collaborating with MCAST and Dr Leonardo Barilaro on the project “Music from Space”, connected to the ASTROBEAT mission.

This initiative aims to send new music composed by NYUAD students to the International Space Station, merging artistic expression with space exploration. The two students have been selected through a music contest, with the judges panel featuring Tina Guo, Steve Mazzaro alongside Dr Barilaro, Prof. Guedes and Prof. Marciano.

Onboard the experiment, there will be also a suite composed by Prof. Guedes that will boost further the value of the research in the field.

Dr Leonardo Barilaro and Prof. Carlos Guedes

NYUAD sees this as an opportunity to showcase student talent and inspire scientific curiosity, while MCAST leverages Dr Barilaro’s expertise in Space Art through his involvement in the previous Maleth program, which streamed twice music from Low Earth Orbit.

The concept of “Music from Space” serves as a platform to transcend cultural barriers, bringing people together globally, while advocating for sustainability and the role of space exploration in addressing environmental challenges on Earth. The project has garnered global interest and was presented at prestigious events, emphasizing the impact of the collaboration between science and art on a broader audience.

Dr Leonardo Barilaro was also invited to hold a space music seminar for the Recording and Production Techniques students by Prof. Matteo Marciano.

Dr Leonardo Barilaro with Prof. Matteo Marciano, Gleb Iarovoi and the students of Gazelien Records

NYU Abu Dhabi logo.png CASS logogazelien records


ASTROBEAT team at MCAST - From left to right: Luke Falzon, Leonardo Barilaro, Mark Spiteri, Steve Buhagiar




ASTROBEAT functional tests at Nanoracks facilities in Houston (USA) and Dr Barilaro at NASA Space Center


Dr Leonardo Barilaro with ASTROBEAT at Nanoracks in Houston


Dr Leonardo Barilaro with H.E. Ambassador Maria Camilleri Calleja


Dr Leonardo Barilaro

01-Dr Leonardo Barilaro

Dr Leonardo Barilaro, project leader of ASTROBEAT, is a Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at MCAST (Malta). With a PhD in Sciences, Technologies, and Measurements for Space from the University of Padua (Italy), he has conducted extensive research on new techniques to assess and mitigate space debris risks. Currently, he is pursuing new research projects in the areas of hypervelocity impacts and aerospace structures, having presented his work at several international conferences. He has industrial experience with multinational corporations and has authored 25 academic papers.

Also known as the “Space Pianist“, Dr Barilaro as a polymath artist, merges his passion for music and science to promote Space exploration and mitigate the impact of the climate crisis. He has produced multiple studio albums and released a daily space music track throughout 2022. His composition “Maleth” was featured onboard the International Space Station (ISS) during the SpaceX CSR25 mission and was broadcast to Earth in August 2022. In 2023, he further expanded his reach with another composition onboard the ISS with the Maleth 3 project.

Mark Spiteri

03-Mark Spiteri Photo

Mark Spiteri is currently working as a full-time lecturer in the aviation maintenance courses offered by the Institute of Engineering and Transport (IET) at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST).

In his previous jobs, he gained a lot of expertise in the aviation industry, where he started as an avionics technician with the National airline AirMalta after finishing a diploma in industrial electronics at the Fellenberg training centre (Paola, Malta). He never looked back and continued gaining experience in aviation maintenance combined with continuous technical training on different aircraft. He finished his B2 license modules in 2004 and joined Lufthansa Technik Malta in the same year. Later he did the B1.1 modules for the part 66 license. Since the beginning, he has been keen to pass on his knowledge about aircraft maintenance. He was very involved in training the companies’ people following the On-the-Job Training (OJT) and delivering practical and classroom training.

Mark finished his bachelor’s degree in management (Leicester, UK) and progressed up in the company’s scales in different positions and departments. His last post in LTM was that of a structures manager.

In 2017 Mark joined APMalta as a full-time technical trainer and was promoted to a training manager soon after. He worked as a part-time lecturer on and off since the early 2000s with various companies, including Triplex , Aviet and MCAST, until he became a full-time lecturer with MCAST in 2019.

To further widen his knowledge on the subject, he is currently reading for a master’s degree in aerospace engineering (MCAST).







Dr Mark Wylie

02-Dr Mark Wylie

Dr Mark Wylie is a lecturer and researcher in the Aerospace Department at SETU. He is a member of the SETU Engineering Centre of Research and Enterprise team. Dr Wylie is a Mechanical Engineering graduate and received his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from DIT in 2012. Following his postgraduate research, he obtained a role as Team Lead for a sounding rocket experimental payload with ESA, DLR and SNSB. This role led Dr Wylie to a position as Principal Mechanical Engineer in the Space Department at Curtiss Wright Defense for a 5-year period. Dr Wylie has also provided mechanical design and analysis for the James Webb Space Telescope VIKI camera system, Ariane 6 TTE system and the PLATO space telescope satellite temperature control system.


Ing. Luke Falzon

04-Luke Falzon

Luke Falzon is a Civil and Structural engineer specialized in digital design and parametric engineering. Luke has international experience having worked on small to large scale projects within the building construction industry.

Steve Buhagiar

05-Steve Buhagiar

Steve Buhagiar holds a Master’s in Software Engineering, specializing in embedded programming, PCB design, and software development. His expertise core is in integrating cutting-edge technologies for comprehensive electronic solutions. In the years he developed a versatile skill set to bridge the fields of hardware and software with efficiency and precision.


Theeba Shafeeg

06-Theeba Shafeg

Theeba Shafeeg holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Aerospace Engineering. She is currently a post graduate research student at SETU, Carlow. Her research interests include aerospace material development and fusion of metals at low temperatures.


Dr Leonardo Barilaro