A Novel Tilting Satellite Dispenser Designed and Built by RUAG Space Proves Itself in the Radarsat Constellation Mission

Using the company’s heritage of designing and building satellite dispensers, RUAG Space developed a unique satellite Dispenser that enables three large radar Earth Observation (EO) satellites to simultaneously launch via a single launcher.

The RCM Dispenser. Photo is courtesy of RUAG Space.

This Dispenser system connected the spacecraft to the launcher and ensured safe separation in orbit using a first-of-its-kind tilting mechanism. RUAG Space delivered the tilting Dispenser System to MDA, a Maxar company, to support the Canadian Space Agency’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), which launched Wednesday, June 12, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, USA.

A closeup view of the RCM Dispenser. Photo is courtesy of RUAG Space.

RUAG was contacted back in 2015 to solve the difficult issue of how to get three large spacecraft safely launched on a single launcher. The size of the spacecraft, and having to pack them inside the payload faring of the launcher, meant that they would sit very close to each other.

To solve this issue, RUAG put forward a truly unique concept for a platform Dispenser to where the three spacecraft would tilt outwards from each other before separation, providing significantly more room for the satellites to safely deploy.

When it comes to spacecraft separation, RUAG has 100 percent success rate and to design a space mechanism in less than a year is a big challenge. To reduce risk, RUAG Space based the design on existing parts, had healthy margins in the design, and redundancy where possible.

Following an intense and highly successful two-year development and qualification program, the RUAG Dispenser system was delivered to the customer in Q2 2017. RUAG continued to actively support the customer, including performing the onsite installation of the dispenser on to the launcher rocket.

RUAG Space CEO Peter Guggenbach said the innovation and technology that the company created is a major contributor to this important mission. RCM is the next in a series of Canadian RADARSAT satellites supporting all-weather maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring for the Canadian government and international users.

Jörgen Remmelg, SVP for Spacecraft at RUAG Space, added that the company is honored that MDA came to RUAG Space for this fundamental hardware for this mission for the Canadian Space Agency which will also serve the rest of the world. Space assets will bring more services, better environments, more science, and better telecommunications. This tilting method was never attempted until this mission. RUAG Space accomplished this task using this state-of-the-art tilting mechanism and the firm’s extensive heritage in the field of satellite separations. Although this tilting method is new, the mechanism incorporated components and design concepts from RUAG’s existing and extensive product portfolio, ensuring a high level of reliability and winning the confidence of the stakeholders for 100 percent mission success.

Albert Thuswaldner, project manager for the RCM Dispenser at RUAG Space said that in less than two years, the company went from having a concept to a complete product. The firm is very pleased and proud to see these dispenser development efforts pay off. This is a big step into the company’s future successes.


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