Tether’s Unlimited Delivers 15 SDRs to Millennium Space

Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) announced it has completed delivery of 15 S-band Software Defined Radios (SDR) in support of a smallsat constellation mission being developed by Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing Company.

TUI delivered all 15 radios on schedule, demonstrating success in its efforts to stand up a radio production line capable of meeting the aggressive timelines of small satellite constellation program.  The deliveries also included the first small satellite mesh networking solution to support inter-satellite data transfer.

The SWIFT-SLX radio is a compact, affordable software defined radio designed to provide S-band and L-band communications for small satellites.  Its suite of “software defined apps” make it readily configurable to support a wide range of mission needs, from aviation to cislunar missions. TUI supports a wide range of band frequencies and makes an effort to work with the customer to meet their requirements. The SWIFT-SLX SDR has 11 units flying in LEO orbit and several dozen more in the launch pipeline.

Tether’s Unlimited’s SWIFT-SLX SDR.

TUI has had a long-standing partnership on advanced space technologies with Millennium dating back over a decade.

Dr. Robert Hoyt

Hitting this delivery rate has taken substantial investments in automating our radio testing infrastructure,” said Dr. Rob Hoyt, TUI’s President. “The space industry has traditionally focused on producing satellite components one at a time, and there wasn’t much experience in the industry with mass production.  We’ve brought in experts in lean production from outside the space industry, and that has paid off in a transformation of our radio manufacturing capability.”

The culture of collaboration and teamwork between both Millennium Space Systems and Tethers Unlimited has contributed to this and many other past successes.” said Seckin Secilmis, TUI’s COO.

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Stellar CAGR Predicted for Smallsat Market

The $2.31 billion small satellites market is slated to reach beyond US$ 8.9 billion in revenues by the end of 2028, this according to a report from Future Market Insights.

Attributed to surging government funding, increasing support from private entities, soaring satellite adoption for R&D purposes, and increasing demand for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) services, Future Market Insights expects the global market for small satellites to observe robust growth at an estimated CAGR of 13.5% over a 10-year period, 2018-2028.

During the assessment period, small satellites market is anticipated to encounter with a few challenges such as space debris problems, insufficiency of skilled resources, and multiple regulatory hurdles; however, advances in space technology and strong governmental support will collectively help the market overcome the restraints and thrive at a stellar pace, globally.

Technological Advent and Surging Applications to Boost Nano-satellites Segment

By satellite type, nano-satellites are presumed to remain the largest as well as fastest growing segment throughout the forecast period. With around 41% revenue share of the market attained in 2017, nano-satellites segment will continue to gain traction due to growing applications in cellular communication. Innovations in IoT technology has also been a significant factor impacting the demand for nano-satellites in a positive manner since the recent past. Up from $946.8 million achieved in 2017, this segment is expected to reach beyond $3,000 million by the end of 2028.

Within this 10-year period, nano-satellites segment will reportedly expand at a healthy CAGR of 14%. Other satellite type segments are also anticipated to see impressive growth, including mini-satellites, micro-satellites, and pico-satellites. While micro-satellites represent a substantial market value share of above 25%, mini-satellites segment will continue to hold a considerably large share of above 22% by value, over the forecast period. Future Market Insights records growing demand for mini-satellites for weather forecasting and R&D applications.

Market Taxonomy: Overview

Among end-users, defence sector is likely to represent the largest shareholding segment by 2028 end, whereas commercial sector is anticipated to witness higher growth. Defence area has been generating substantial demand for small satellites, covering over 42% market value share by 2017 end, whereas the consumption from commercial sector is slated to increase at a high rate and bring in above 31% share of the market value for commercial segment during the assessment period. As per the regional segmentation analysis, North America will remain the largest market share contributor through to 2028. Western Europe, and SEA and others of APAC will exhibit significant growth over the decade.

Key Market Players: Overview

Some of the leading players in the global market for small satellites include Orbital ATK, Inc., Ball Corporation, Airbus S.A.S., Boeing, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., QinetiQ, ISIS- Innovative Solutions In Space B.V., OHB SE, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., and Planet Labs Inc. While Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin Corporation have been identified to be the predominant players, it has been found that the winning strategies of these three giants will provide a major thrust to the global small satellites market in near future.

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Diverse Defense Apps = Profitable Path for Smallsats

A new report by XploreMR studies the growth drivers, trends, restraints, and highlights of the global small satellite (smallsat) market. Presenting exclusive insights into the market from 2018 to 2028, the report projects that the market will witness notable growth during the forecast period.

The growth of the market is mainly attributed to the growing demand for smallsats for Earth Observation (EO) services in diverse end-use sectors such as energy, telecommunication, oil & gas, and media, to name a few. Similarly, smallsats are extensively used in the defense sector in a wide range of applications, such as tactical communication, geospace and atmosphere research, and medium-resolution imagery.

Furthermore, the satellite communications segment is anticipated to remain the leading end-use segment and will continue to complement the growth of the market. Backed by the aforementioned factors, the global small satellite market is anticipated to create an absolute opportunity of $2.31 billion and reach a valuation of $8.94 billion during the forecast period.

The military segment is anticipated to remain a prominent end-use segment and will continue to bestow lucrative growth opportunities to the smallsat market. Defense sectors of numerous nations, both developed and developing, are focusing on enhancing their existing communications framework to gain a military advantage over their bordering and enemy nations. To cater to the increasing demand, manufacturers of smallsats are resorting to cost-effective approaches and are implementing industrial passives at each stage of development to manufacture satellites on a large scale.

On this premise, cubesats are gaining prominence in defense sector as they aid in enhancing battlefield communications, gathering information from unattended sensors, and in monitoring space weather. Moreover, as compared to conventional satellites, smallsats have shorter development cycles and require a smaller development team, thereby reducing the manufacturing and operational expenses. The aforementioned factors will continue to drive the small satellite market on a positive growth trajectory in the forthcoming years.

North America is a prominent regional market for small satellites, currently accounting for nearly 55% of market share, on the back of numerous satellite launches by the US-based companies and universities throughout the year. The region is anticipated to grow in market value at a stellar CAGR of 13.1% through the forecast period.

Moreover, the United States Commission has approved licenses for several commercial Earth Exploration Satellite Services (EESS) constellations that use smallsats operating on the cubesat concept. Such development will continue to support the regional growth of North America. On the other hand, it has been observed that the smallsat market has been gradually shifting from North America to Asia-Pacific (APAC), backed by significant investments in Japan, India, and China.

Increased expenditure by governments and private organizations is augmenting the market growth in China, which is anticipated to metamorphose into a leading region for the smallsat market. Backed by continual developments in space infrastructure, APAC is forecast to create an incremental opportunity of $594.9 million during the forecast period and will hold a respectable share in the global market value.

Some of the major market players in the global smallsat market studied in the report include, but are not limited to, The Boeing Company, Aerospace Corporation, Airbus Defense and Space, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Thales Group, Planet Labs Inc., Spire Global Inc., Thales Alenia Space, GomSpace Group AB, and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.

LeoStella Delivers Their First BlackSky Smallsats

LeoStella, a specialized satellite constellation design and manufacturer, has delivered their first, two, fully manufactured satellites from the firm’s state-of-the-art production line.

The satellites are the fifth and sixth of an ongoing Earth Observation (EO) constellation program for the global monitoring company, BlackSky.

LeoStella’s intelligent manufacturing facility opened in 2019 and is the first of its kind. The satellites were delivered to the launch facility on June 1, 2020, and have been prepared for an upcoming SpaceX launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. LeoStella’s ability to minimize costs and reduce development and manufacturing time helps meet the increasing demand for satellite constellations in a time sensitive ecosystem.

LeoStella’s new production facility was developed to change the way satellites and constellations are produced to better meet the needs of agile space customers. The factory is a fully digital and networked environment that includes intelligent workstations, connected tools, automated test equipment, statistical process control, embedded product assurance, and a custom Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) backbone that manages and tracks all activities. Coupled with the manufacturing process is a robust supply chain of industry leaders with a focus on advanced technologies that help LeoStella offer an exceptional value proposition for its customers.

The satellites weigh approximately 50-kilograms and are designed to be operated in a variety of LEO orbit altitudes and inclinations. They are compatible with a wide range of rideshare and dedicated launch vehicles. The satellites are based on a product optimized for imaging missions with high resolution, agility and stability and can be configured for alternate missions and payloads.

Based in Tukwila, Washington, LeoStella is a joint venture between Thales Alenia Space and Spaceflight Industries.

Successful delivery of these two BlackSky satellites marks another major milestone in LeoStella’s promise of rapid, low-cost, high-performance satellite constellations,” said Mike Hettich, CEO of LeoStella. “In a short time, we have created the designs, infrastructure, tools, and processes that enable constellation production at scale. Delivery of these satellites provides an important validation of our approach. It’s exciting to see the team bring our vision to reality.”

LeoStella is a key partner in extending our global monitoring constellation,” said Brian O’Toole, CEO of BlackSky. “Their intelligent design and inventive manufacturing have established LeoStella as a leader in new space economics. Consequently, we’re able to deliver valuable first-to-know insights at a cost that makes it accessible for both business and government customers.


New Smallsat Analysis & Report from XploreMR

Small satellites (smallsats) are becoming more attractive, as they enable missions that cannot be accomplished by large satellites, such as high temporal and spatial resolution by gathering data from multiple points, in-orbit inspection of large satellites, and space missions consisting of a large number of satellites forming constellations.
     Small satellites enable missions in navigation, communication, remote sensing, and scientific research for civilian, commercial, and military purposes. XploreMR in its newly published report assesses the global small satellites market over a 10 year forecast period – 2018-2028. (Report title: Small Satellite Market: North America to Continue Market Dominance; Western Europe Slated for Robust Growth in the Years Ahead: Global Industry Analysis 2013 – 2017 and Opportunity Assessment 2018 – 2028)

Report Overview
This report presents an analysis about the current trends and ongoing developments in the small satellite market. Small satellites are artificial satellites with lower weights and smaller sizes, and are becoming more attractive in recent years due to lower development costs and shorter lead times as compared to large satellites.
     During the past few years, space systems and technologies have become a crucial part of the economic, scientific, and security capabilities of countries across the world. Various government and private organizations in the world are now focused on capitalizing on space systems to improve operational effectiveness, and to enhance homeland security and digital communication capabilities.

Scope of the Report
The scope of this market study includes the manufacturing of small satellite. Satellite-related services in consumer and commercial domains such as satellite TV and cellular communication, launch vehicle services, and ground equipment have been excluded from the scope of this market study. The research methodology of the market study includes extensive primary and secondary research. Various surveys were conducted with small satellite manufacturers and industry experts to understand the value chain and critical driving factors of the small satellite market. Desk research was conducted to identify current market trends and ongoing developments in the market.

Market Segmentation
The market has been segmented in two broader categories: satellite type and end user. The satellite type segment is further segmented into mini-satellites, micro-satellites, nano-satellites, and pico-satellites. Among these, the nano-satellites segment is expected to grow at a relatively higher CAGR during the forecast period, owing to an increase in the demand for nano-satellites in various applications such as Earth Observation (EO), research & development, and remote sensing.
     The nano-satellites segment is also expected to capture a market share of 43.0% during the forecast period. Among the end user segments, the commercial segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.9% during the forecast period, as small satellites are now being increasingly used in several commercial applications such as air & maritime monitoring, communications, land use monitoring, agriculture monitoring, and disaster monitoring.
     The decrease in the prices of launch services and the increasing need for surveillance in defense are some of the primary factors which are fuelling the growth of the small satellite market. North America is expected to hold more than 50% of the market share in 2018. One of the major reasons for the dominance of North America is that, most satellite manufacturers are based in the U.S., and are delivering small satellites to various public and private organizations across the globe. However, the SEA & others market in the APAC region is expected to create more potential growth opportunities for the small satellite market in the coming few years, owing to the increasing demand for small satellites in India and ASEAN countries.

The final section of the report focuses on the profiles of leading companies in the global marketplace for small satellites. The market study also presents some recommendations for market stockholders. In brief, these recommendations encourage consultation between small satellite manufacturers, for which technological advancements should be an agenda issue, and professional bodies in non-satellite manufacturing sectors, such as media & entertainment and telecommunication services.

All stockholders in the smallsat industry should work in collaboration and exchange their resources in order to improve the quality of services that are being offered through small satellites.

Request a free sample of this report at this direct link…

Arianespace Postpones Flight VV16 Again

As high-altitude winds above the Guiana Space Center remain unfavorable, Arianespace made the decision not to initiate the final chronology operations for Flight VV16 on Saturday, June 20, 2020. 

A new target date will be announced as soon as possible, based on the evolution of weather conditions.

The Vega launch vehicle and its 53 spacecraft payloads are in stable and safe conditions.

Unfavorable high-altitude wind conditions over the Guiana Space Center has led to a decision that the final preparation phase for Arianespace’s Flight VV16 with Vega could not be initiated as planned today. 

For its fifth mission in 2020 and the first Vega flight of the year, Arianespace will orbit 53 satellites on the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) Proof of Concept (PoC) Flight, performed on behalf of 21 customers.

With this mission, designated Flight VV16, Arianespace underscores its comprehensive range of innovative and very competitive services to address the nano- and micro-satellite market sub-segment, serving both institutional and commercial needs. The creation of such a new service using the company’s light-lift Vega led to the SSMS project.

The European Space Agency (ESA) funded the SSMS hardware development, and also contributed with the European Union to the funding of this “Proof of Concept” (PoC) flight.

The combined European efforts will enhance Arianespace’s response to the rideshare demand with solutions that are perfectly suited to the flourishing small satellite market.

SAR Constellation Enroute from PredaSAR

PredaSAR Corporation will launch a constellation of 48 commercial Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites across multiple orbits, with this constellation becoming the world’s largest and most advanced commercial SAR satellite constellation. According to the company, this constellation will provide PredaSAR’s government and commercial clients with unprecedented image quality, unmatched global persistence, and rapid data delivery. 

PredaSAR is led by a highly respected CEO, Major General Roger Teague, USAF (Ret), and a seasoned executive team with extensive national security space expertise and substantial access to capital. A U.S. owned and controlled company, PredaSAR is supported by a Board of Directors who bring over 100 years of national security experience, including General William Shelton, USAF (Ret), Lieutenant General Richard Newton, USAF (Ret), and Major General Douglas Raaberg, USAF (Ret).  

PredaSAR spacecraft employ an advanced, proprietary radar payload to create 2D Synthetic Aperture Radar images, 3D reconstructions of objects and the Earth’s surface, and customer-tailored data products. SAR satellites provide high-resolution images at any time of day and in any weather condition, overcoming natural limitations of traditional optical satellites. PredaSAR spacecraft possess the latest in space-proven, high quality satellite systems to support scalable and fully capable operations in any orbit. Leveraging its advanced technologies, PredaSAR will deliver critical insights and data products to military and commercial decision makers at the speed of need.

I am thrilled to announce the 48 satellite PredaSAR constellation. It delivers unparalleled capabilities that meet the most demanding national security needs addressable by a commercial constellation, demonstrating our commitment to our U.S. Government clients. Setting such a high bar also allows PredaSAR to deliver outstanding products and services for our commercial customers,” said PredaSAR Executive Chairman and Co-Founder Marc Bell. “PredaSAR features a well-known and respected leadership team of trusted professionals with extraordinary depth and experience across both government and industry. With groundbreaking commercial technology, the PredaSAR constellation will deliver best-in-class, advanced SAR data products and services.”

This is an exciting time to be in the commercial space industry.  Today, more than ever, commercial space companies are delivering unprecedented value to the United States government, enabling military, intelligence, and commercial customers to maintain ever-critical U.S. leadership across their enterprises and markets,” commented PredaSAR CEO Roger Teague. “PredaSAR looks forward to meeting the challenges of our customers to deliver compelling SAR products and services.”


Rocket Lab Awarded NRO Launch Missions

Rocket Labs’ ‘Birds of a Feather’ launch for the NRO.
Photo is courtesy of the company.

Rocket Lab has signed a launch agreement with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) for two back-to-back, dedicated smallsat missions aboard an Electron launch vehicle.

The missions were awarded through the NRO’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract, an initiative that enables the agency to explore new opportunities for launching small satellites through a streamlined, commercial approach. The RASR-3 and RASR-4 missions are scheduled for launch within weeks of each other in late spring 2021 from two separate pads at Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 (LC-1).

By launching the missions separately from pads LC-1A and LC-1B, Rocket Lab is able to eliminate the pad recycle time typically required when launching from a single pad. This unique ability enables Rocket Lab to launch missions just days or even hours apart, making truly responsive space a reality for small satellite operators and the U.S. national security community.

Construction of Launch Complex 1 Pad B commenced in December 2019 and will be complete by the end of this year. Pad LC-1B is Rocket Lab’s third launch pad, joining the existing pad at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, as well as the new pad at Launch Complex 2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia, USA.

The RASR-3 and RASR-4 missions follow on from two recent Rocket Lab launches for the NRO; the ‘Birds of a Feather’ mission in January 2020, and the ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ mission in June 2020.

Maintaining resilient space architecture and having the ability to deploy assets exactly when and where they’re needed is paramount for U.S. national security in these dynamic times,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO. “We’re proud to continue enabling that flexible, responsive space access and once again deliver a proven launch solution for the NRO and the nation.

Lars Hoffman, Rocket Lab’s SVP of Global Launch Services, said, “Given the threat to space capabilities posed by potential adversaries, there simply cannot be a waiting room to get on orbit. With Electron launch vehicles on standby for rapid call-up and three launch pads capable of supporting up to 130 missions per year, we stand ready to respond to the national security community’s needs with speed and precision, every time. We look forward to working with the dedicated team at the NRO once again for these important missions.”


Astranis’ MicroGEO Passes Milestone to Benefit Alaskans 


Alaska will benefit from the efforts of Astranis’ MicroGEO line of small communication satellites, as a result of successful thermal-vacuum testing of a qualification vehicle. This important test furthers the company’s ability to develop technology to operate in the harsh environment of space and marks a major milestone on the path to delivering low-cost broadband internet to underserved populations around the world, starting with Astranis’s first commercial satellite that will provide broadband internet in Alaska.

A qualification vehicle test accomplishes two things.

  • First, it allows the engineering team to characterize the thermal behavior of the vehicle.
  • Second, it pushes the vehicle to significantly higher levels than it will expect to see on orbit to ensure the vehicle can continue to operate.


Astranis succeeded on both counts. Astranis made use of a highly-specialized vacuum chamber at an NTS Space center-of-excellence facility in Los Angeles, California. This thermal-vacuum chamber, paired with a custom-designed shroud, was able to simulate both extreme hot and cold temperatures needed for qualification testing. The chamber was pumped down to near vacuum, and Astranis engineers then powered up the vehicle, ran through a series of functionality checks, and began to operate the vehicle as the test environment was adjusted across a wide range of temperatures. The spacecraft was exposed to pressures as low as 7 x 10-6 Torr (about one one-hundred-millionth the density of Earth’s atmosphere).

“This is the single largest technical de-risking milestone for this product and for our first commercial program,” said Astranis CEO John Gedmark. “To get to this point, all the different aspects of the vehicle had to come together and work as a system—avionics, power electronics, the payload, the structure, the software, and more. Then we really pushed it to the limits. The fact that we passed this test with flying colors speaks volumes to the dedication and talent of our team. And it brings us one step closer to helping hundreds of thousands of Alaskans gain reliable access to broadband internet.”

After the success of this test, the Astranis team will complete a final wave of system-level and unit-level tests before commencing with the build of the first MicroGEO flight vehicle.

Astranis will ship its first commercial satellite early next year for a mission to provide broadband internet to the State of Alaska, with service beginning in summer 2021. The company has signed a contract to launch the satellite on a SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Astranis is partnering with Pacific Dataport Inc., a subsidiary of Microcom, Alaska’s largest satellite TV and internet provider, to deliver affordable broadband internet to Alaska, and this new satellite will more than triple the satellite bandwidth serving the state.

“We have to turn away customers every day who want more bandwidth,” says Chuck Schumann, CEO of Pacific Dataport Inc. “This first satellite from Astranis will enable Alaskans living in remote locations to get reliable access to the internet for the first time, and will reduce internet prices across the state. The success of this qualification TVAC test shows that Astranis and Microcom can deliver on their promise to the people of Alaska.”

Multi-Flight Agreement Signed by Spaceflight with SpaceX

Spaceflight’s historic SSO-A mission carrying 64 smallsats aboard a Falcon 9. Photo is courtesy of SpaceX.

Spaceflight Inc. has inked an agreement with SpaceX to secure rideshare capacity on multiple launches.

This agreement between the two companies secures Spaceflight capacity to launch manifest payloads on several SpaceX launches through the end of 2021, providing launch schedule assurance to smallsat customers needing frequent, reliable, and cost-effective launches to Sun-synchronous orbit.

According to a recent research study by Bryce Space and Technology, delays are commonplace throughout the launch industry. “Launch delays are inevitable and are typically out of the control of rideshare customers. In order to offer launch flexibility and minimize the impact of significant delays, it’s critical to have capacity on a wide range of launches to easily re-manifest customers from one launch to another,” said Devon Papandrew, VP of business operations at Spaceflight. “Having this guaranteed capacity with SpaceX improves our customers’ odds of getting on orbit when they need to and helps us ensure flights are as full as possible, lowering costs for all and minimizing environmental impacts.”

The agreement builds on a long-standing relationship between the two companies. Spaceflight and SpaceX have partnered for several industry firsts, including SSO-A, the first dedicated rideshare mission with 64 smallsats aboard a Falcon 9 in December 2018.

Additionally, Spaceflight and SpaceX teamed up on the first-ever rideshare mission to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit carrying a commercial lunar lander in February 2019. Spaceflight also announced today it will launch two rideshare payloads aboard SpaceX’s tenth Starlink mission, marking the first SpaceX Starlink mission that will be accompanied by Spaceflight rideshare payloads.

Spaceflight works with a large portfolio of launch vehicles, including Falcon 9, Antares, Electron, Vega, and PSLV, to provide a variety of launch options to its customers. The company has launched more than 270 satellites across nearly 30 rideshare missions. In 2019, the company successfully executed nine missions, the most it’s ever launched in one year, sending more than 50 payloads to space.

By offering a variety of launch options, we can better meet our customer’s specific launch needs and offer increased launch flexibility,” said Curt Blake, president and CEO of Spaceflight. “This agreement with SpaceX will be particularly attractive to smallsat customers. SpaceX’s consistent launch schedule coupled with our deep expertise in mission management and integration services offers rideshare options with greater reliability. This agreement will allow us to package multiple payloads onto a single port to significantly reduce the cost per spacecraft for the end-customer.”

Spaceflight is one of the most experienced companies offering mission management and integration services for smallsat operators, and we are proud to offer their customers the best launch solution on the market,” said SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales, Tom Ochinero. “Together, Spaceflight and SpaceX are providing small satellite operators access to space in the most reliable and cost-effective way possible.”

Upcoming Spaceflight events…

  • Spaceflight’s SXRS-1 mission with SpaceX will launch in the coming weeks
  • Spaceflight’s Vega-1 mission will launch on Thursday, June 18
  • The launch window for Spaceflight’s RL-3 mission opens Friday, July 3 UTC