ManSat Group Shared the Latest Smallsat Trends at the Recent SmallSat Symposium 2019

During the recent SmallSat Symposium, the ManSat Group joined other leaders from the rapidly growing smallsat industry to share information on the latest trends and to collaborate on innovative ideas.

ManSat Group CEO Chris Stott and Katherine Gizinski, the VP of Sales and Marketing, represented ManSat at the 4th annual SmallSat Symposium, which was in session for four days and hosted by Satnews Publishers, an industry leader in satellite news, media and events — the Symposium was in session at the Computer History Museum, located in Mountain View, California.


Chris Stott, CEO of the
ManSat Group.

Chris moderated a panel during the Symposium, which asked the question: What role do heavy lift large rockets play in the small satellite industry?

The panelists were:

  • Dr. Bruce Chesley, Senior Director, Strategy, Space and Missile Systems Defense, Space & Security at Boeing
  • Stella Guillen, Vice President Sales and Marketing, Arianespace Inc
  • Jonathan Hofeller, Vice President of Commercial Sales, SpaceX
  • Jeanne Medvedeva, Commercial Director, EXOLAUNCH
  • Dr. Ko Ogasawara, Vice President and General Manager, Space Systems, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

 

 
Chris said that the majority of heavy lift launch service providers have already developed smallsat launch capability, or plan to, either directly or with third parties. The panel discussion looked at whether this is likely to continue, given that there is a number of smaller launch vehicles, with more frequent launches, on the horizon.


Katherine Gizinski, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, ManSat Group.

Katherine noted that the SmallSat Symposium is a great venue for exploring the critical issues and technological advances specific to smallsats. This event was also an ideal opportunity for the company to network, both with existing contacts and those who are new to the industry.

ManSat carries out satellite filings for the Isle of Man under a contract with the Isle of Man Government’s Communications Commission.

Hiber’s Internet of Things SmallSat Tested for Space

The Netherlands’ latest space firm — Hiber — has brought their newest design to ESA’s largest antenna test facility for testing — the Dutch space company is building an orbital constellation of CubeSats to provide global low-cost connectivity for the ‘Internet of Things,’ tracking and harnessing data from modem-linked objects such as haulage vehicles, power cables, pipelines or sensors for precision agriculture.


Evaluation of a test Hiber nanosatellite took place in ESA’s metal-walled Hybrid European Radio Frequency and Antenna Test Zone (Hertz) at the Agency’s technical centre in the Netherlands, shut off from all external influences for radio testing. Hertz’s hybrid nature makes it unique: the facility can assess radio signals from antennas either on a local ‘near-field’ basis or as if the signal has crossed thousands of kilometres of space, allowing it to serve all kinds of satellites and antenna systems. Image is courtesy of ESA – G. Porter.

Evaluation of a test smallsat took place in ESA’s metal-walled Hybrid European Radio Frequency and Antenna Test Zone (Hertz) at the Agency’s technical center in the Netherlands, shut off from all external influences for radio testing. Hertz’s hybrid nature makes it unique: the facility can assess radio signals from antennas either on a local ‘near-field’ basis or as if the signal has crossed thousands of kilometres of space, allowing it to serve all kinds of satellites and antenna systems. Hiber’s initial development was supported through ESA’s Business Incubation Centre Noordwijk. The company went on to launch their first two CubeSats last year. The firm’s test campaign in ESA’s Hertz chamber was organized through the Netherlands Space Office.

Connectivity is direct to the smallsats through a tiny modem and antenna linked to the tracked item. The company is called ‘Hiber’ because these terminals hibernate most of the time, turning on only when a Hiber satellite passes overhead to relay positioning and status updates.

HiberOne and HiberTwo are currently in orbit, launched in November and December of last year, but a constellation of up to 48 satellites is envisaged, depending on customer demand. As the total Hiber constellation grows, the revisit time between acquisitions will decrease.


Hiber smallsat in Hertz at ESTEC, seen with the chamber’s near-field scanner to the left.
Photo is courtesy of ESA – G. Porter.

These smallsats were manufactured for Hiber by Dutch small satellite specialist ISIS —- Innovative Solutions In Space.

Since its establishment in late 2016, Hiber has received support from various elements of ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program, helping it grow to be awarded the title of Commercial Startup Launch of 2018 by Amazon Web Services and achieve its first satellite launch within a year of its founding.

Among Hiber’s pilot customers is Clean2Antarctica, a team of environmental campaigners using a solar powered car made from waste plastic to traverse the Antarctic.

Executive Comments


An engineering model of a Hiber CubeSat inside ESA’s Hertz chamber at ESTEC in the Netherlands. The front spiral antenna is used to send and receive signals from the modems of Hiber customers, used to track or harness data from items such as haulage vehicles, power cables, pipelines or sensors for precision agriculture. The long straight antenna is employed to receive commands from the ground and downlink satellite telemetry.
Photo is courtesy of ESA – G. Porter.

Maarten Engelen, Hiber’s CTO, said the fact that the company is  able to test the firm’s satellites in a chamber such as this, just half an hour from the company base, is extremely valuable. The results from the very thorough antenna testing has helped guide the check-out of these satellites on orbit, and feeding through to Hiber’s follow-on designs. These smallsats possess a one-year lifetime, so this next generation will be headed to orbit next year. The company already knows the satellite antennas work well enough to serve the firm’s initial customers around the world. But this testing is looking at how all onboard antennas are operating in combination. The spiral antenna for receiving and sending modem signals needs to work well alongside the other satellite platform antennas. The company hopes to find room for optimization, things to tune and make more efficient use of the company’s spectrum allocation, resulting in firmware upgrades to the firm’s terminals as well as guiding Hiber’s follow-on satellite designs.

Arianespace and Open Cosmos Sign Launch Contract

Arianespace and Open Cosmos, a company providing turnkey space missions, have signed a contract for the launch of an innovative CubeSat deployment solution.

Launched from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana using a Soyuz rocket, the CubeSat deployment platform is a key to the commercial offering from Open Cosmos. The first mission comprises an array of CubeSats with a total capacity of 12 units (12U) and will weigh about 30 kg. at liftoff — the CubeSats will be injected into Sun-synchronous Orbit (SSO) at an altitude over 500 km.

Open Cosmos delivers effective satellite-based solutions with the goal of enabling companies to use space technologies for tackling global challenge. The company specializes in the development and implementation of missions for small, low-cost satellites (up to 50 kg.), with short lead times (typically less than a year). One of the primary advantages of Open Cosmos is that the firm gives customers access to a wide range of launchers and orbits.

The first Open Cosmos payload will be an auxiliary passenger on the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation (CSG 1) satellite mission, along with the CHEOPS satellite for the European Space Agency (ESA) as well as the ANGELS and EyeSat’s French CNES space agency missions. The launch is scheduled for the last quarter of 2019.

Executive Comments

Following the contract signature, Rafael Jordá Siquier, CEO of Open Cosmos, said customers always ask the firm how they can get their payloads into orbit quickly and surely. This partnership with Arianespace to launch a 12U (units) deployment platform will get them into their targeted orbit less than ten months after signing the contract. This mission will use one of the world’s most reliable and highest performance launchers, with a proven track record — and that’s exactly the kind of agility that the space industry needs right now.

Stéphane Israël, CEOr of Arianespace, added that this contract clearly reflects the firm’s unwavering commitment to new players such as Open Cosmos, which drive the dynamic small satellite market. It also reflects the company’s ability to offer available, flexible and competitive solutions for all market segments, thanks to the Arianespace family of launch vehicles.

SSTL’s RemoveDEBRIS Satellite Capture Mission is a Success

A successful capture was completed by the SSTL-developed RemoveDEBRIS satellite.

The harpoon was fired at a speed of 20 meters per second and penetrated a target made of satellite panel material.  The harpoon and 1.5 meter target boom were designed by a team at Airbus in Stevenage, UK.   The photo to the right shows the harpoon target bottom left, with the onboard camera to the right.  The spherical structure in the center with the white cover is the net housing. 

The success of the harpoon firing marks the third successful experiment for the RemoveDEBRIS project which has already demonstrated a net capture experiment and trialed its state-of-the-art LiDAR based vision navigation system to identify a target cubesat.

The RemoveDEBRIS satellite platform was designed and manufactured by SSTL to house two target cubesats and four debris removal technologies — a net, a harpoon, vision based navigation using cameras and LiDaR, and a de-orbit dragsail.  The spacecraft is operated in orbit by SSTL’s engineers from the company’s Spacecraft Operations Centre in Guildford, UK. 

The RemoveDEBRIS team is now preparing for the final experiment, which is scheduled to take place in March and will witness the RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft inflate a sail that will drag the satellite into Earth’s atmosphere for destruction. A video produced by SSL of this event is available for viewing at this direct link...

The U.S. Space Surveillance Network tracks 40,000 objects and the estimate is that there are more than 7,600 tons of ‘space junk’ in and around Earth’s orbit — with some moving faster than a speeding bullet, approaching speeds of 30,000 miles per hour.

The RemoveDEBRIS consortium consists of:

  • Mission and consortium coordination – Surrey Space Centre (UK)
  • Satellite system engineering – ArianeGroup (France)
  • Platform, avionics and spacecraft operations – SSTL (UK)
  • Harpoon – Airbus (UK)
  • Net – Airbus (Germany)
  • Vision based navigation – CSEM (Switzerland)/ INRIA/ Airbus (France)
  • CubeSat dispensers – Innovative Solutions in Space (Netherlands)
  • Target CubeSats – Surrey Space Centre (UK)/ Stellenbosch University (South Africa)
  • Dragsail – Surrey Space Centre (UK)

 

The RemoveDEBRIS project is co-funded by the European Commission and the research leading to the results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n°607099.

OneWeb Receives £18 Million from UK Space Agency for Next Gen Satellite Constellation 

Affordable worldwide internet coverage is one step closer following an £18 million of UK Space Agency funding having been awarded to OneWeb through the European Space Agency to aid in the development of the company’s next generation satellite constellation.


Artistic rendition of the OneWeb constellation. Image is courtesy of Airbus.

A global communications network in space, the system will be initially comprised of approximately 650 satellites and will scale to more than 900 satellites over time. This new £18 million investment will go towards meeting the significant technical challenges of the project, placing the UK at the forefront of cutting-edge research and development.

The commercial potential for a cost effective worldwide telecoms satellite system is huge, and the UK space sector is playing a leading role in delivering this technology, which is made possible by the UK’s ongoing commitment to the European Space Agency and the UK’s capabilities in space and telecommunications via the agency’s modern Industrial Strategy plans.

UK business OneWeb, which is headquartered in London and will employ up to 200 staff at their White City offices, is poised to take advantage of cost effective spacecraft launches and manufacturing to deploy hundreds of satellites that could provide more affordable internet connectivity to people and businesses across the world.

The OneWeb Sunrise program will initially focus on technologies for the next generation of satellite payloads, ground connections and space debris removal. The UK Space Agency investment will also support novel automation techniques and artificial intelligence to manage the proposed constellation of spacecraft and its interaction with terrestrial networks to realize global 5G connectivity.

This announcement comes as a result of the UK’s investment in the European Space Agency’s telecommunications research program — ARTES. ESA is independent of the European Union and hosts their European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) in Harwell, Oxfordshire.


Artistic rendition of the EUTELSAT QUANTUM satellite.

This news comes as the first batch of ten satellites of the OneWeb constellation are due to be launched on an Arianespace Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana next week, on February 26. Last month, EUTELSAT QUANTUM, the first satellite capable of being completely reprogrammed after launch, left the UK for final assembly and testing in France. In November of last year, Eutelsat and Airbus signed a new contract worth hundreds of millions of pounds that will see components and parts for two further communications satellites assembled in the UK. This means that six out of seven of the company’s next satellites will be partially built in Britain. According to the agency, the UK space sector is growing rapidly, employing 42,000 people and playing a major role in the global shift towards the commercialization of space activities — known as ‘New Space.’

The UK space industry is commercially focused with 82 percent of income from sales to consumers and businesses. The latest industry figures show it has an income of £14.8 billion, employment of 41,900 and exports worth £5.5 billion, while supporting a further £300 of UK GDP through the provision of satellite services to other sectors

 

Executive Comments

 

Adrian Steckel, CEO, OneWeb, said providing access to people everywhere has been the mission and vision of OneWeb since the very beginning. The company will be able to realize this vision in part because of important partnerships such as this one with the UK Space Agency, ESA and a range of other important partners including the firm’s European and Canadian partners. Thanks to this support, OneWeb will focus together on next generation technologies that will be game changers for realizing global 5G connectivity. The company is excited about the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to develop novel automation techniques that could help manage this constellation in future and ensure such is done safely and responsibly in order to protect space for future generations.

Magali Vaissiere, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications added that Sunrise is a prominent endeavor falling under the Satellite for 5G Initiative. This represents the exciting and required new direction ESA is taking in support of Member States’ industry to remain at the forefront of the most advanced developments within the space world as well as to enable the necessary complement to the terrestrial networks that satellites will have to play to ensure a successful and fully inclusive digitization of industry and society. This ESA project will span seven nations including Canada and is an example of how the UK will continue to work across Europe and globally.

State-Of-The-Art SmallSat Production Facility Inaugurated by LeoStella

LeoStella, a smallsat design and manufacturing company, has inaugurated their production facilities in Tukwila, Washington.

The company is a joint venture between Thales Alenia Space, joint venture between Thales (67 percent) and Leonardo (33 percent), and Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries. Formed in March of 2018, LeoStella has been developing a state-of-the-art production facility to construct smallsats cost-effectively and at scale.


LeoStella manufacturing facility.

The first satellite produced by LeoStella will be an Earth Observation (EO) satellite for BlackSky’s constellation. The satellite is scheduled to be completed by the end of Q1 in 2019. The company is also contracted to manufacture the next 20 satellites in the BlackSky constellation.

When operating at capacity, LeoStella’s production facilities will enable the company to produce up to 30 satellites a year, ranging from EO and telecom satellites. Additionally, LeoStella has spent the last year selecting the firm’s suppliers and forming partnerships with key vendors.

Executive Comments

Chris Chautard, the LeoStella CEO, said that with the growing number of constellations, there is a large demand for efficient smallsat production and the company is uniquely positioned to address that demand. LeoStella is a unique blend of deep knowledge and expertise from Thales Alenia Space and innovation and agility from Spaceflight Industries. With the new facility, the company is equipped to design and manufacture smallsats efficiently.

Brian O’Toole, President of Spaceflight Industries and CEO of BlackSky, added that the firm is positioned to disrupt the smallsat industry. The company is critical to BlackSky’s success as all work to get this constellation on orbit quickly. Part of making space more accessible is lowering all of the associated costs, including the design and construction of the assets placed on orbit. LeoStella will make constellation production lean, nimble and affordable.

Viktoria Otero Del Val, EVP Strategy at Thales Alenia Space, noted that LeoStella is fully in line with Thales Alenia Space’s strategy to match the new needs for new space. The company will complement and leverage their undisputed experience of mass production for constellation with its success of Globalstar, O3B and more recently, Iridium NEXT, making Thales Alenia Space the worldwide leader for constellations.

Methera Global Introduces Their New Brand Identity

Methera Global Communications Ltd., the UK-based MEO satellite constellation that plans to deliver multi-Gbps wholesale internet connectivity to targeted underserved and emerging regions of the world, now has a brand new identity.

The new brand consists of a green and blue logo representing the Earth and sky, and technology as a change for good.

Executive Comment

Chris McIntosh, CEO for Methera Global, said this is a positive addition to the Methera story as the company matures from a start-up organization to the next level of growth and gears up for the company’s satellite procurement and launch. This builds upon the firm’s growing team of experienced satellite industry professionals and the company’s ITU filings as well as the market acceptance of the Methera Global offering in the areas of the world that are still without any or good Internet connectivity. The high density coverage that the company will provide can light up entire regions, thereby aiding governments and telecom service providers to build sustainable regional and national economic growth that positively changes lives.

NanoRacks Continues Their Historic Program — Sixth SmallSat Deployment from Cygnus Completed

NanoRacks successfully completed the company’s sixth CubeSat deployment mission from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus (S.S. John Young) spacecraft, which departed the International Space Station (ISS) on February 8th, 2019, and performed a number of on-orbit activities, including another historic deployment.


Artistic rendition of the Cygnus spacecraft. Image is courtesy of Northrop Grumman.

Cygnus maneuvered to a higher-than-Space Station altitude (445 kilometers) where the NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployment mission released two of the three CubeSats on board into orbit — MySat-1 and the second CHEFSat satellite. The spacecraft then lowered to an altitude of 300 kilometers to deploy KickSat-2.


Work on the MySAT-1 satellite at Yahsat Space Lab in Masdar City, a collaboration between the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, part of Khalifa University of Science and Technology, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (formerly Orbital ATK) and Al Yahsat Satellite Communications Company. Photo is courtesy of Vidhyaa for The National infosite.

The deployment of MySat-1 marks an additional historic moment for NanoRacks, being the first payload that the company has launched and deployed from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). MySat-1 is a joint program from Yahsat, Khalifa University of Science and Technology and Northrop Grumman and is the first satellite built at the Yahsat Space Lab in Masdar City and among the first to be developed by local students.


Photo of the Sprite, a tiny (3.5 by 3.5 centimeter) single-board spacecraft that has a microcontroller, radio, and solar cells and is capable of carrying single-chip sensors, such as thermometers, magnetometers, gyroscopes, and accelerometers. To lower costs, Sprites are designed to be deployed hundreds at a time in LEO and to simultaneously communicate with a ground station receiver.

KickSat-2 is a collaborative CubeSat from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and Stanford University. KickSat-2 was selected for flight by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and was launched as the sole CubeSat in the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites-16 (ELaNa-16) mission complement, sponsored by the NASA Launch Services Program (LSP).

KickSat-2 was deployed well below the ISS altitude due to the satellite sub-deploying smaller “ChipSats,” a prototype representing a disruptive, new, space technology. These ChipSats, also known as “Sprites,” are tiny spacecraft that include power, sensors, and communication systems on a printed circuit board that measure 3.5 by 3.5 centimeters, with a thickness of just a few millimeters and a mass of only a few grams. The ChipSats are expected to be in orbit for a few days before burning up.

The NanoRacks External Cygnus Program is the first program to have leveraged a commercial resupply vehicle for use beyond the primary cargo delivery to Space Station, demonstrating the future possibilities for using cargo vehicles for the NanoRacks Space Outpost Program and other commercial space station activities. With successful completion of this mission, NanoRacks has deployed 35 satellites from the Cygnus into multiple orbits.

Executive Comments

The NanoRacks VP of Business Development and Strategy, Allen Herbert, said the company could not be more excited about all of the activity happening in the space industry in the UAE. NanoRacks has a number of groundbreaking programs in the works and the MySat-1 deployment is the perfect way to kick start NanoRacks activities in the region.

NanoRacks External Payloads Manager, Henry Martin, noted that this entire mission is a testament to the flight safety teams in-house at NanoRacks and at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as well as the flight operations team at Northrop Grumman. The company was able to shepherd some extremely challenging payloads through the NASA system on a timeline that met the needs of the firm’s customers. This required many teams working closely together and the company is proud to have yet another successful mission that demonstrates the extended use of cargo vehicles.

To date, NanoRacks has deployed 231 satellites into LEO.

Leo Aerospace Plans to Make SmallSat Launches Far More Accessible

A startup that plans to use high-altitude balloons to deploy rockets has successfully fired a test launch, moving closer to their goal of helping end the backlog of smallsats that wait months or longer to “hitch” a ride on larger rockets.

Leo Aerospace LLC, a Purdue University-affiliated startup based in Los Angeles, launched its first “rockoon,” a high-power rocket from a reusable balloon platform, from the Mojave Desert in southern California in December. A video is available at this direct link…

The company aims to revolutionize access to space for those looking to launch smallsats that weigh up to 25 kilograms, or about 110 pounds. The company plans to be a “dedicated” launch for microsatellites, serving one customer at a time.

SpaceWorks Enterprises Inc. issued a report last year estimating that as many as 2,600 smallsats will be launched over the next five years. To accomplish this, more companies that can send the satellites into space are needed.

Large aerospace launch companies generally cater more to large satellite companies, leaving microsatellite companies to wait to see if there is any leftover space available and the smallsat operator must try to find rockets that will deploy the equipment somewhere in the vicinity of where they would like to be located. Even then, this process can require months to maneuver into place after already waiting for months for smallsat deployment.

With the test launch completed, the startup founders are now planning to move on to their next phase, which involves raising $8 million to fund the company for the next two years. They also are looking to add personnel, including a VP for business development and VP of engineering. They are looking for people experienced in the aerospace industry who can bring valuable aerospace know-how to the firm.

The team spent two months in Australia last summer taking part in Startmate, an accelerator program, and plans to conduct at least some of their launches Down Under. Leo Aerospace’s long-term business plan includes engaging in a number of launches from Australia as regulations and air traffic can allow companies to fly more frequently,.

The startup’s work aligns with Purdue’s Giant Leaps celebration, celebrating the university’s global advancements in space exploration as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. This is one of the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

Leo Aerospace received their start at Purdue and received guidance from the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. The rocket scientists developed their business plan and learned what they needed to do to move forward.

Leo Aerospace already has begun taking letters of intent from smallsat companies. Hepfer said the company doesn’t plan to start selling launches until it is ready to begin launches. Leo plans to begin doing suborbital launches next year and break the edge of space by 2021. Suborbital launches allow scientists to gather information about the atmosphere and other research data.

The goal is to be able to start launching microsatellites into orbit by 2022. Those microsatellites will be able to monitor the health of crops, to track global commodity supplies and to advance scientific exploration.

Executive Comments

Michael Hepfer, head of product development for Leo Aerospace and a senior in Purdue’s School of Industrial Engineering, said it was thrilling to see that first launch after all those months of hard work and planning. This launch confirmed early testing that using high-altitude balloons and rockets to send microsatellites into space will work. It’s like taking a bus compared to taking an Uber. He added the advantage Leo Aerospace will have over larger companies is that the firm’s clients will be the smallsat companies and they will be able to deploy to precise locations. Additionally, using the high-altitude balloon as a launch pad will save money because it will deploy the rocket from up to 11 miles into the atmosphere. At that altitude, there is 95 percent less atmosphere, meaning there is much less drag, which means Leo Aerospace can use smaller rockets and less fuel.
     Hepfer noted that the launch in December, which did not include a satellite deployment, provided Leo Aerospace with valuable data. He said the firm received great information about what happens to the balloon craft when the rocket is launching because it shakes, vibrates, and twists — next time a bigger rocket is launched, the company will know what changes need to be made beforehand. The big challenge was figuring out how to integrate a high-altitude balloon with the logistics of attaching a rocket to it and then launching it remotely,. A big part of that was automating a many of the systems as the balloon is going to be out of sight when the rocket is launched.

Dane Rudy, the company’s CEO and a graduate of Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering, added that the company believes it should be as easy to put a microsatellite into space as it is to ship a package across the country. There will be no more need for ridesharing or hitchhiking.

Integration of Six OneWeb Spacecraft Completed by Arianespace for Upcoming Launch

Arianespace has completed a major preparation milestone for their next Soyuz launch with integration of the mission’s high-profile payload: the initial six spacecraft in OneWeb’s constellation, which will provide affordable high-speed internet access for users around the world.


One of the six OneWeb satellites for launch on Soyuz Flight VS21 is integrated on its payload dispenser during activity inside the Spaceport’s S3B payload preparation facility.
Photo is courtesy of Arianespace.

The spacecraft — produced by the OneWeb Satellites joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus — will be orbited on Arianespace’s first Soyuz mission of 2019 from the Spaceport in French Guiana. Designated Flight VS21, the event has a targeted liftoff of February 26. Integration of the six satellites on their multi-payload dispenser system — which will deploy them during the mission from atop Soyuz’ Fregat upper stage — was completed in the Spaceport’s S3B payload preparation facility.

Once placed in a near-polar orbit by Soyuz, the OneWeb spacecraft will operate at an altitude of 1,200 km., giving customers extremely low latency and providing communications access to the entire world with fiber-quality internet connectivity. OneWeb is building the world’s largest and highest throughput satellite system to connect everyone, everywhere – by land, air, sea with a vision to bridge the digital divide once and for all. To develop their constellation of 150 kg. satellites, OneWeb signed a contract with Arianespace in 2015 for 21 Soyuz launches.


Artistic rendition of the OneWeb constellation. Image is courtesy of the company.

The upcoming Flight VS21 will mark the 21st liftoff of Soyuz from French Guiana since this medium-lift launcher’s 2011 operational debut at the Spaceport. As Arianespace’s second of as many as 12 missions planned for 2019, Flight VS21 also will continue the momentum gained from the company’s year-opening launch: Flight VA247 with Ariane 5, which successfully delivered a pair of telecommunications relay platforms – Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4 (HS-4/SGS-1) and GSAT-31 – to geostationary orbit on February 5.