M-ARGO Mission Assigned to GomSpace by European Space Agency

GomSpace’s subsidiary in Luxembourg and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a contract of 400,000 euros for the Phase A design of the Miniaturized Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer (M-ARGO) mission.

Under the contract, GomSpace will be in charge of preliminary design of the mission, spacecraft and implementation planning. A “12U” cubesat spacecraft configuration is envisioned for the mission, packing in beyond state-of-the-art advancements in miniaturized technologies including communication, instrumentation, electric propulsion and operational autonomy to be demonstrated in the deep space environment.

This preliminary concept illustration of the M-Argo spacecraft
is courtesy of GomSpace.

Expected launch of the mission is in 2023, subject to funding of the implementation phase, and it will be the first nanosatellite ever to rendezvous with an asteroid and perform close proximity operations over an extended period for identification of in-situ resources.

The NEO population now has more than 20,000 largely uncharted asteroids and the M-ARGO capability will be able to access the nearest 100 or more in terms of propellant needed to achieve a rendezvous. NEOs are interesting for scientific exploration as well as for the potential of future long-term exploitation of minerals and other useful materials mined from asteroids. In addition, NEOs pose a threat for potential collisions with the Earth, requiring the need for further understanding of their physical properties for future planetary defense purposes. Smallsat technology will allow future cost-efficient exploration of these objects in significant numbers.

Artistic rendition of the M-ARGO spacecraft on mission. Image is courtesy of ESA-Jacky Huart.

The work will be implemented in Luxembourg in line with GomSpace Group’s ambitions to benefit from the local space ecosystem. The work will be supported by the scientific-technological university, Politecnico di Milano in Italy, providing expert support on deep space mission analysis and navigation of low thrust trajectories associated with electric propulsion.

The contract is funded by the Luxembourg Space Agency through the Fly element of ESA’s General Support Technology Program. The mission implementation beyond the current phase A contract is open to further European cooperation, and to maximize outcome of the mission a scientific committee on asteroid mining is being set up to consolidate the scientific requirements and propose the most suitable instruments for the mission.

Roger Walker, Head of ESA’s Cubesat Systems Unit, said the M-ARGO technology demonstration mission is intended as an enabler of a potential future operational capability for highly cost-effective in-situ resource exploration of the accessible Near-Earth Object (NEO) population using a fleet of deep space cubesats.

GomSpace CEO, Niels Buus, added that activities such as M-ARGO allow the company to develop the firm’s internal capabilities and technologies to new levels to the benefit of science and exploration as well as to build competitive advantage for the commercial markets. With these orders, GomSpace is satisfied to have built significant momentum for space exploration capabilities and positions the company well to serve ESA as well as other institutional customers on future ,high-profile long duration missions.

SpaceX Preps Self-Driving Starlink Satellites for Launch

Elon Musk says SpaceX’s Starlink satellites will autonomously avoid hazards in orbit. Experts are not so sure…

The 60 Starlink satellites that SpaceX is preparing to launch tomorrow, after two delays last week, are the first in a planned mega-constellation of nearly 12,000 satellites that Elon Musk hopes will bring affordable broadband Internet to everyone in the world.

The first 60 Starlink satellites slated for launch are shown here loaded into a Falcon 9. Photo: Elon Musk/Twitter

However, once launched, they will occupy low earth orbits (LEO) that are becoming increasingly crowded with other satellites and space debris.

Last Wednesday, SpaceX revealed that its Starlink satellites will be the first to autonomously avoid collisions with objects in orbit. Elon Musk told reporters, “They will use their thrusters to maneuver automatically around anything that [the U.S. military] is tracking.”

According to multiple experts, however, a single source of orbital data is not good enough to automate critical decisions about safety.

Today, ground-based radars operated by the U.S. military and private companies track everything in LEO larger than around 10 centimeters in size. When two objects look like they might collide, the U.S. Air Force issues a conjunction alert with the probability of the collision. At the moment, satellite operators review such alerts manually, conduct their own assessment or consult other sources, and then choose whether or not to move their spacecraft.

“Collision probabilities are like people—no two are created the same way. It’s a very poor metric to use as a sole basis to do maneuvers,” says Moriba Jah, an aerospace engineer at the University of Texas at Austin. “Some people use the alerts and other people disregard them because they just don’t trust them.”

“Without frequent measurements, the data uncertainty can be high,” agrees Raymond Sedwick, an aerospace engineer at the University of Maryland’s Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research. “It’s like saying, something is going to pass within 100 meters of your spacecraft, with an uncertainty of 1,000 meters. What do you do about that? Do you stay or do you move?”

When faced with a 12 percent chance of a collision with a rival CubeSat in January, earth observation startup Capella Space decided to move its satellite. “With the time prior to moving, the time the maneuver takes, and a post-maneuver phase to check things out, it certainly disrupted our business,” says Capella CEO Payam Banazadeh. The satellites missed each other.

As LEO fills up with more and more satellites, the number of conjunction alerts is set to increase dramatically. Glenn Peterson, a researcher at the Aerospace Corporation, has calculated that if all the mega-constellations planned for LEO reach orbit, more than 67,300 alerts would be generated every year. 

SpaceX’s solution is to automate the process. When SpaceX receives a conjunction alert for one its Starlinks, it will send the information directly to the satellite, which will then take appropriate evasive maneuvers using on-board electric thrusters. SpaceX could not immediately confirm whether the satellites would move in response to all alerts, or just those reaching a certain probability of collision. 

“If [you react when] someone tells you there’s a 1 in 10,000 chance that you’re going to hit, you’ll be making a lot of maneuvers,” says Hugh Lewis, an engineering professor and space debris expert at the University of Southampton. “If you set your level at 1 in 50, you won’t be making lots of maneuvers but you’re potentially going to be hit. I think the ultimate decision should have a human being involved in it.”

There is also the possibility, albeit remote, that the satellite might inadvertently shift itself into the path of another object. 

“I think the ultimate decision should have a human being involved in it.” —Hugh Lewis, University of Southampton

A Space Act Agreement between SpaceX and NASA, signed last August, shows that Starlink satellites will use a powerful Linux multiprocessor system-on-chip, highly accurate GPS hardware, and NASA software to fix their own positions to within centimeters.

It will send that information  to the Combined Space Operations Center, the Air Force unit in charge of space traffic. “This is absolutely vital for spacing and maintaining the constellation,” says Lewis. “But it’s not going to help you at all figure out where other objects are.”

Given that Musk is also the CEO and co-founder of Tesla, a comparison with autonomous vehicles is inevitable. “Nobody’s even comfortable with driverless cars yet. Now, apply that [technology] to a spacecraft traveling orders of magnitude faster in an environment that’s really quite congested, and where you can’t see everything,” says Lewis. “This is unproven, untested technology destined for not just one satellite, but potentially tens of thousands.”

Jah thinks the automation part of SpaceX’s plan is “brilliant” but also that “automating something crappy doesn’t make sense.” To help solve this, Jah is building AstriaGraph, the world’s first crowd-sourced space traffic monitoring system. AstriaGraph incorporates Air Force data, but also location data from satellite operators, and from private space tracking companies like LeoLabs. By giving satellite operators—and possibly even autonomous satellites—more data, he hopes to improve the accuracy of future collision alerts.

“The key to orbital safety is transparency and predictability,” says Jah. “People need to tell other people where their stuff is located so they can move out of the way.”

However, unlike some of the other companies building mega-constellations, SpaceX has been quite secretive about its plans and technologies to date.

“The silver lining is that once the spacecraft go up, they cannot hide them,” says Lewis. “Everything they do will be visible to people on the ground. And I’m going to be one of the people watching to see what happens.”

By Mark Harris, IEEE Spectrum

SpaceX’s Elon Musk Says ‘Goodness’ Will Come From Twice-Delayed Starlink Launch

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sits on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, in preparation for the launch of 60 Starlink broadband data satellites. (SpaceX Photo)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the launch of 60 Starlink satellites is aimed at spreading “fundamental goodness” in the form of high-speed internet access for the billions of people who currently don’t have it.

[Ed. Note: This article references scrubbed launches dated last week.]

The first full stack of Starlink satellites is packed in the nose cone of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida was originally scheduled for Wednesday night [May 15], but had to be called off with less than 15 minutes left on the countdown clock due to unacceptable upper-level winds.

SpaceX announced another postponement today [May 16], and said the next launch opportunity would come next week:

At roughly 18.5 tons, the total payload mass for this launch will set a record for a SpaceX liftoff, Musk said during a pre-launch teleconference with reporters on Wednesday [May 15].

The first-stage booster for this launch was previously used for the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite launch last September and the Iridium 8 satellite launch in January. Minutes after launch, the booster is due to separate and land itself on a drone ship called “Of Course I Still Love You,” stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.

Starting about an hour after launch, the 500-pound, flat-panel satellites will be spun into low Earth orbit like playing cards spread out on a table.

The satellites were built at SpaceX’s development facility in Redmond, Washington. Eventually, the Redmond factory could be turning out more than 1,000 satellites over the course of a year, Musk said.

“This was one of the hardest engineering projects I’ve ever seen done, and it’s been executed really well.” Musk said. “I think it is important to acknowledge that there is a lot of new technology here. So it’s possible that some of these satellites may not work. In fact, there’s a small possibility that all of the satellites will not work.”

How five dozen satellites barely fit into a Falcon fairing

The payoff? “The goal of the Starlink system is to provide high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity, ideally throughout the world,” Musk said. Although he didn’t name a price, Musk said he expected Starlink eventually to “provide a competitive option” for the estimated 4 billion people around the world who can’t afford or can’t get access to broadband internet service.

“There’s a lot of, like, fundamental goodness about Starlink,” he said.

But there’s also, like, a revenue model: Musk estimated that once Starlink is fully up and running, it could generate $30 billion or more in annual revenue for SpaceX.

“We see this as a way forward to generate revenue that can be used to develop more advanced rockets and spaceships,” he said. “And that, we think, is a key steppingstone on the way toward establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon.”

The income from Starlink is meant to help fund advanced development of Starship, the super-heavy-lift launch system that Musk intends to use to send a million settlers to Mars in the decades ahead. The first prototypes of the Starship system are already taking shape at SpaceX’s facilities in Texas and Florida. 

There’s lots to be done before Musk’s city on Mars gets built. This first launch is primarily aimed at demonstrating the technology for what could eventually amount to as many as 11,000 satellites in low Earth orbit.

Musk said only about 400 satellites would be required to build up a “useful” satellite constellation, which translates into about six launches after this mission’s scheduled deployment. Mark Juncosa, vice president of vehicle engineering at SpaceX, said another six launches would provide good coverage over the United States. An additional six to 12 launches would raise the satellite tally high enough to cover the world.

“Within a year and a half, maybe two years, SpaceX will probably have more satellites in orbit than all other satellites combined,” Musk said.

More satellites will make for better service, but Musk said “one does not need anywhere around 10,000 satellites.” He said SpaceX cited the 11,000-satellite figure in its filings with the Federal Communications Commission just to set a maximum for the Starlink system.

SpaceX launched two prototype Starlink satellites in February 2018. Since then, there have been big changes in the design of the satellites — and in the leadership of SpaceX’s satellite team in Redmond.

Previously:: Elon Musk reveals how to stuff 60 satellites on SpaceX’s rocket

Last month, SpaceX finally received FCC clearance for service using satellites that fly as low as 342 miles (550 kilometers), but the company will require additional sign-offs from international agencies for service outside the U.S.

Each satellite is equipped with a krypton ion drive for maneuvering in orbit, as well as phased-array antennas for transferring data to and from the ground. Musk said the signal latency would be less than 20 milliseconds, which compares favorably to cable connections.

These first satellites aren’t equipped with laser systems to communicate with each other in space. Instead, they’ll use a “ground bounce” trick to relay signals between satellites via SpaceX’s gateways. “It’ll be working pretty much like an intersat link,” Musk said. The lasers will come later.

Musk said each batch of 60 satellites represents about a terabit’s worth of useful connectivity — that is, a trillion bits of data. “If you add up all the solar panels on the system, it’s actually more solar power than the International Space Station,” he said.

The satellites will upload NORAD data about other objects in space, and tweak their trajectories accordingly to avoid orbital collisions. Their orbits are designed to maximize the chance that they’ll descend and burn themselves up at the end of their useful lives, with 5 percent or less of their mass surviving atmospheric re-entry.

On the ground, SpaceX plans to set up six satellite gateways, including installations in Redmond and North Bend, Wash. There’s also a telemetry, tracking and command station planned in Brewster, Wash.

SpaceX has also filed an application with the FCC to deploy up to a million user terminals. “What does the Starlink user terminal look like?” Musk said. “It basically looks like a small- to medium-sized pizza. It’s basically a flat disk, but unlike, say, a DirecTV satellite dish, which has to point in a specific direction … you can basically put it at almost any angle that is reasonably pointed at the sky.”

Musk said SpaceX hasn’t yet tried to sign up customers, but “we’re definitely interested in having those discussions.” Advance sales efforts, perhaps focusing on telecom partners, are likely to begin late this year or early next year, Musk said.

Starlink isn’t the only game in town: There are at least a half-dozen other ventures angling for a piece of the broadband constellation market, including OneWeb, Amazon, Telesat, LeoSat Enterprises, Boeing and Facebook.

Musk welcomes the competition. “My guess is there will probably be at least one other low-Earth-orbit constellation,” he said. But he’s trying to avoid obsessing over his rivals. For example, he declined one reporter’s invitation to comment on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ plans for a satellite constellation known as Project Kuiper.

“With respect to potentially competing satellite systems,” Musk said, “we just want to stay focused on Starlink.”

This report was originally published on May 15 and was updated with last week’s launch postponement.

By Alan Boyle, GeekWire

Space Flight Laboratory Heading into CANSEC 2019 to Reveal their Jay Pathfinder Smallsat Project

Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) will highlight the upcoming Canadian Gray Jay Pathfinder R&D smallsat project at CANSEC 2019 in Ottawa on stand 1036 — this event is being held fro May 30 to 31 in the EY Centre in Ottawa, Canada.

Gray Jay is a formation flying smallsat constellation being developed by SFL for the Department of National Defence’s science and technology organization, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), to support Arctic surveillance technology demonstration under the All-Domain Situational Awareness (ADSA) program.

In August of 2018, the Government of Canada awarded Phase One of the C$15 million project to SFL to develop the Gray Jay microsatellites. SFL, a self-sustaining specialty lab established in 1998 at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), is one of the world’s leading developers of next-generation smaller satellites featuring advanced attitude control and formation-flying technology — critical capabilities for the Gray Jay project.

Surveillance solutions support the Government of Canada’s ability to exercise sovereignty in the North and provide a greater awareness of safety and security issues, as well as transportation and commercial activity in Canada’s Arctic. These objectives have been outlined in Canada’s defence policy: Strong, Secure, Engaged.

The SFL microsatellites being developed for Gray Jay will include multiple sensors on a constellation of microsatellites operating in close formation in LEO to allow for quick and timely detection and identification of surface or airborne targets. These concurrently obtained sensor observations are expected to improve the responsiveness of detection and follow up, which may not be straightforward or timely when individual sensors are located on non-collaborating satellites.

SFL has built more than 25 smallsats with more than 100 cumulative years of successful operation in orbit. Many of these missions have included SFL’s trusted attitude control and formation-flying technologies.




Ball Aerospace’s Green Smallsat Ready for NASA’s Green Propellant Mission Arrives in Florida 

Ball Aerospace, a partner in the new NASA Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) announced their Ball Aerospace-built small spacecraft arrived in Florida today to prepare for a June launch on board a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. GPIM is NASA’s first opportunity to demonstrate a new “green” propellant and propulsion system in orbit – an alternative to conventional chemical propulsion systems.

GPIM is a sustainable and efficient approach to spaceflight, and the new propellant will demonstrate the practical capabilities of a Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate fuel and oxidizer blend, called AF-M315E. This innovative, low toxicity, “green” propellant was developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory. GPIM is part of NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program within the Space Technology Mission Directorate.

Dr. Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, Civil Space, Ball Aerospace stated that GPIM was a truly collaborative effort, working with their partners, NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Air Force Research Laboratory, U.S. Air Force and SpaceX. They are proud to be part of this historic mission to test a new ‘green’ propellant on board Ball’s flight-proven small satellite, helping to provide science at any scale.

Ball Aerospace is responsible for system engineering; flight thruster performance verification; ground and flight data review; spacecraft bus; assembly, integration and test; and launch and flight support. The GPIM bus uses the smallest of the Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) satellites, which is about the size of a mini refrigerator, and was built in just 46 days. The BCP provides standard payload interfaces and streamlined procedures, allowing rapid and affordable access to space with flight-proven performance.

Lystrup added they have shown that Ball can provide small, fast and affordable solutions with excellent performance and now they’re excited to do that for NASA.

There are currently two BCP small satellites performing on orbit: STPSat-2, which launched in Nov. 2010, and STPSat-3, which launched in November 2013. The two STP satellites were built for the U.S. Air Force Space Test Program’s Standard Interface Vehicle (STP-SIV) project. Ball also has two BCP small satellites in development for NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) and Spectro Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) missions.

Earth to Sky Smallsat to Launch with Delta Satellite Solutions

Earth to Sky, Inc. (ETS) has inked a definitive launch services agreement with Delta Satellite Solutions, Inc. (DSS) — the launch will occur in March 2021 to 550 km. SSO and will place 120 cubesats on-orbit.

Delta Satellite Solutions is a provider of affordable rides and payload and satellite integration services for academic institutions and was founded with the intention of connecting the STEM world to engage in real world experiences for space exploration. Many universities and high schools provide the experience of designing, developing, and creating smallsats but few have the opportunity to put them in space.

Chris Barker, President of ETS, said the company is very excited to be working with DSS, supporting opportunities for educational institutions to fly cubesats. The company’s Sleek Eagle launch vehicle mated with the firm’s Cubesat Ring dispenser is capable of launching dozens of cubesats and other satellites on a single mission.

Evelyn Torres Bada, President of DSS, added that the educational market for cubesat missions is significantly underserved. Various STEM and government programs support development of satellites but not flying them and, as a result, there are hundreds of cubesats in colleges and universities around the world that are waiting for an opportunity to fly. She added that the current high cost of flying cubesats, even as secondary payloads, has prohibited most from launching. The company’s price point is significantly under today’s costs and the firm plans to meet this large and growing need. DSS understands the tremendous educational value and motivation that being part of a satellite program operating in space can be for students at all levels. These un-launched satellites could become a significant boon for STEM related subjects when they are orbiting the Earth.

DIY Smallsat Kit Launched by AmbaSat as a Kickstarter Project

A new Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kit launched via Kickstarter by AmbaSat now allows the building of one’s own satellite for launch into space.

The AmbaSat-1 is a tiny space satellite kit that you assemble and code yourself and is now available — watch the demonstration video via this direct link to learn more about the project that provides an easy way to build your own spacecraft and have it launched into LEO.

AmbaSat-1 is part of a new generation of satellites known as Sprite satellites. They are tiny spacecraft measuring 35 mm square and just a few millimeters thick. Pioneered by the original KickSat, the company’s goal is to launch groups of AmbaSat-1 satellites onboard a commercial rocket. By shrinking the size of the spacecraft, as many as 200 satellites can be launched at a time, thereby reducing costs.

Once the satellite kit is assembled and programmed, it will be launched onboard a commercial rocket for LEO deployment, where it will then spend up to three months in space. This is a kit, it’s fun, it’s educational and the company is requesting your assistance to make this happen.

AmbaSats are just a little bigger than the size of a couple of postage stamps but have solar cells, a LoRaWAN radio transceiver, microcontroller (an Arduino compatible ATMEGA 328P-AU), memory, a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer as well as a range of other sensor options. Making use of The Things Network (TTN), AmbaSats are capable of transmitting data to more than 5,000 Earth-based TTN receivers (Gateways) which are spread around the whole globe. No specialist radio receiving equipment is required — the satellite’s data appears over the internet directly to the owner’s AmbaSat Dashboard.”

ICEYE’s EO Services and APSI Combine Forces to Support South Korean New Space Market

APSI (Asia Pacific Satellite Inc.) and ICEYE have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to support the South Korean New Space market.

Jang Soo Ryoo, Ph.D Chairman and CEO of APSI, and Pekka Laurila, CSO and Co-founder of ICEYE, at ICEYE offices in Finland at the signing of the contract.

As a part of the agreement, APSI will supply ICEYE’s SAR imagery in South Korea and also provide mutual support from both APSI and ICEYE to deliver radar imaging related satellite solutions to the greater South Korean market.

ICEYE successfully launched its second radar imaging satellite, ICEYE-X2, in early December of 2018, in the global EO market. The satellite launch was an initial step toward creating the necessary SAR satellite constellation of ICEYE for frequent and reliable satellite-based information regarding any location on Earth, regardless of the time of day — and even through cloud cover.

ICEYE-X2 radar satellite image of Seoul, South Korea, taken during February 2019.

ICEYE is providing commercial data services to both government and industry users. The company is actively increasing the size of its SAR satellite constellation, with as many as five additional satellites being launched throughout 2019. ICEYE’s small SAR satellites can be manufactured and launched cost-effectively and provide up to 1 meter resolution SAR images.

APSI is a provider of equipment and services for multiple government programs in South Korea, and with the support of ICEYE’s leading technology, will grow to provide further data, hardware and radar imaging solutions to the government of South Korea.

Rocket Lab to Launch Rideshare Mission for Spaceflight

Rocket Lab‘s next flight will launch multiple spacecraft on a mission procured by satellite rideshare and mission management provider, Spaceflight.

The launch window will open in June, with the launch taking place from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.

The mission is Rocket Lab’s seventh Electron launch overall and the company’s third for 2019, continuing Rocket Lab’s average monthly launch cadence. The flight follows dedicated missions launched for DARPA and the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program in the first months of 2019.      

The mission is named ‘Make it Rain’ in a nod to the high volume of rainfall in Seattle, where Spaceflight is headquartered, as well in New Zealand where Launch Complex 1 is located. Among the satellites on the mission for Spaceflight are BlackSky’s Global-4, two U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Prometheus and Melbourne Space Program’s ACRUX-1.

The spacecraft manifested on the mission will be delivered to precise, individual orbits by Electron’s Kick Stage. Powered by the 3D printed Curie engine, the Kick Stage carries the payloads to a circular orbit before employing a cold gas reaction control system to orient itself for precise deployment of each satellite at pre-defined intervals. This removes the risk of spacecraft recontact during deployment and ensures each spacecraft is deployed to the ideal orbit.

Rocket Lab has been delivering small satellites to orbit since January 2018. The company has launched 28 satellites on Electron for a range of government and commercial mission partners including NASA, the DOD Space Test Program and DARPA. Rocket Lab’s 2019 manifest is fully booked with monthly launches, scaling to a launch every two weeks by the end of the year. The first launch from the company’s second launch site, Launch Complex 2, at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia, will also take place later this year.

Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck said rideshares have historically presented a challenge for small satellite operators, as they are often at the mercy of the primary payload’s schedule and orbit and said that this exciting mission with Spaceflight demonstrates the new level of freedom now offered to small satellite operators thanks to Electron. Rocket Lab puts small satellite operators in charge, offering an unmatched level of control over launch schedule. Thanks to Electron’s Kick Stage, the company also deliver sthe kind of precision orbital deployment normally reserved for a prime.

ESA and GomSpace to Tackle and Improve the Most Critical Areas of Smallsat Systems and Subsystems

ESA and GomSpace have put their scientific heads together to devise an improvement for smallsat systems and subsystems for science missions in deep space. The two companies signed a contract that is valued at 3.900.000 € over 18 months. (3.300.000 € for GomSpace Denmark and 600.000 € for GomSpace Sweden). The contract is carried out under the Science Programme funded by ESA.

In this project, GomSpace will tackle the most critical technology areas that could enable the use of small satellites for a science mission with a launch date as early as 2028. The aim is to design and test various development models at subsystem level to demonstrate a technology readiness level of TRL6.

Small satellites have been proposed in the frame of deep space scientific missions for several years. However, questions about the combability and reliability of the small satellites’ technology, traditionally used for LEO applications with limited performance and lifetime requirements, have remained unanswered or not addressed in sufficient depth.

CEO, Niels Buus, from GomSpace said that this is an important step for GomSpace. Deep Space is by far the harshest environment, you will ever meet. Adapting their nanosatellites to this environment will increase their lifetime and the reliability way beyond state of the art. This will become a significant driver in meeting the technology requirements of tomorrow — also on the commercial market.

Scientific missions to deep space will become key in understanding the origin of the solar system as well as the planetary resources. ESA is working closely with NASA and the international space community to design and exploit these future missions.