Accion Systems Raises $11 Million in Series B Funding

Accion Systems has raised $11 million in Series B funding — the round is being co-led by Boeing HorizonX Ventures and Shasta Ventures.
The Series B round brings Accion’s total funding to date to $36 million, which includes $14 million in U.S. Deptartment of Defense (DoD) and NASA contracts. The new capital will be used to ramp up production of Accion’s next-generation propulsion product and to expand hiring.
Spun out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2014, Accion is redefining in-space propulsion. Accion’s TILE (Tiled Ionic Liquid Electrospray) propulsion system aims to increase the lifespan and maneuverability of satellites and other vehicles in space. Leveraging a non-toxic, ionic liquid propellant and postage stamp-size thrusters, the TILE system is smaller, lighter and more cost-effective than traditional ion engines.

Boeing HorizonX, an innovation and venture organization within Boeing, discovers, shapes and accelerates the next generation of game-changing ideas, products and markets through ventures investments, partnerships and trend discovery.

The TILE product family features four systems.

Accion Systems has a number of launches already scheduled for 2020, including collaborations with student organizations at the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program in Irvine, CA and BeaverCube, an educational mission led by MIT to introduce University students to aerospace science and technology through designing a 3U CubeSat.

Accion also was recently one of fourteen companies selected by NASA as part of its Tipping Point partnership for Moon and Mars technologies. Accion’s in-space propulsion system will be used on replicas of the MarCO CubeSats, NASA’s first cubesats that traveled on an interplanetary mission. Accion will work with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to replace the cold gas propulsion system that was used on the MarCO cubesats with a more efficient ion electrospray propulsion system. Accion received $3.9 million for the project, which was successfully kicked off in January 2020 and will launch in the summer of 2021.

Natalya Bailey, CEO of Accion Systems, said that at the size of a postage stamp, the company’s propulsion system is re-writing the rules of smallsat navigation and maneuverability, The firm is excited to ramp up production and offer clients benefits such as extending mission lifetime, station-keeping, and de-orbiting capabilities.

Brian Schettler, Senior Managing Director of Boeing HorizonX Venture, noted that Accion’s propulsion system brings new capabilities to satellites, space vehicles and ultimately, customers. This support of Accion supports Boeing’s leadership in adopting next-generation technologies to advance satellite capabilities.

Shasta Ventures led Accion’s Series A funding round and Rob Coneybeer sits on Accion’s Board of Directors.

Rob Coneybeer, Managing Director at Shasta Ventures, added that only 60 satellites were launched during the first nine years of space exploration, but now there are that many smallsats launched in a single mission. A new approach to in-space propulsion and smallsat mobility is in order, and the company believes Accion has the solution.

SMC’s Successful Mission Deploys Aerospace Rogue CubeSats from ISS

Mission accomplished on behalf of the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center and its mission partners as they successfully deployed Aerospace’s Rogue Alpha and Rogue Beta CubeSats from the Northrop Grumman Cygnus capsule at 1 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. respectively, on January 31, 2020 marking the beginning of the program’s mission experiment plan.  

The Aerospace Rogue Alpha/Beta CubeSat in the lab (Photo: Jeff Berting/Aerospace)

The plan involves the two satellites using their short-wave infrared sensors to create a baseline for processing cloud backgrounds and inform future low Earth orbit satellites. The Air Force will also utilize this program’s unclassified data to investigate potential uses of the capability.

Col. Dennis Bythewood, Program Executive Officer for Space Development said that the Space and Missile Systems Center is proud of this team’s accomplishments and the speed at which this program developed.

The CubeSats were designed, built, and tested by The Aerospace Corporation, a national nonprofit corporation that operates as a federally funded research and development center dedicated to advancing the nation’s missions in space.

Jeff Emdee, general manager of the Space Development Division at The Aerospace Corporation said that Aerospace is proud to present its Rogue CubeSats to support the Space Force’s mission of achieving a secure and resilient space architecture. Each three-unit CubeSat is about the size of a shoe box and contains both visible and infrared sensing, as well as a laser communications downlink, that will allow them to explore operations in low Earth orbit to benefit future system concepts.


Lockheed Martin’s First Smallsat Enables Space Mesh Networking

A new era of space-based computing is now being tested on-orbit that will enable artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, cloud networking and advanced SATCOMs in a robust, new, software-defined architecture.

In January of this year, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) launched the Pony Express 1 mission as a hosted payload on Tyvak-0129, a next-generation Tyvak 6U spacecraft.

The Lockheed Martin Pony Express 1 mission is a hosted payload on Tyvak-0129 smallsat.

Image is courtesy of Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc.

Pony Express 1, an example of rapid prototyping, was developed, built and integrated in nine months, and was funded completely by Lockheed Martin Research and Development funding. This orbital proving ground is validating payload hardware and software, and is packed with new technology that fits into a satellite the size of a shoebox. Some of the key technologies being flight-tested include:

HiveStar™ software validates advanced adaptive mesh communications between satellites, shared processing capabilities and can take advantage of sensors aboard other smart satellites to customize missions in new ways previously difficult to achieve in space.

A software-defined radio (SDR) that allows for high-bandwidth hosting of multiple RF applications, store-and-forward RF collection, data compression, digital signal processing and waveform transmission.

A technician works on Lockheed Martin’s Pony Express 1 payload.

Image is courtesy of Lockheed Martin Space.

Pony Express 1 is a dual-use payload that enables mesh networks in space through HiveStar™ and a second function that tests space to ground remote sensing. Future research missions this year, like Pony Express 2, will further advance cloud networking concepts among satellites, as well as validating Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat™ software-defined satellite architecture which enables streamlined hosting of flexible mission apps.

This mission consists of two 12U cubesats with faster, more capable ultra-scale processors that unlock in-orbit data analytics and artificial intelligence. Equipped with miniaturized cross-link and precision timing, Pony Express 2 is a trailblazer for autonomous teaming in space and true cloud networking.

Rick Ambrose, EVP of Lockheed Martin Space, said that early on-orbit data show Pony Express 1 is performing its important pathfinding mission very well. Lockheed Martin’s HiveStar™ technology on board will give the firm’s customers unparalleled speed, resiliency and flexibility for their changing mission needs by unlocking even greater processing power in space. This is the first of several rapid, self-funded experiments demonstrating Lockheed Martin Space’s ability to systematically accelerate the firm’s customers’ speed to mission while reducing risk from new technologies.

ResponsiveAccess’ “One Stop Shop” for Smallsat Launches Present @ Smallsat Symposium 2020

Following an award for funding provided as part of an initiative to help Britain’s small businesses achieve their exporting ambitions, Edinburgh, Scotland, based ResponsiveAccess has flown out to the SmallSat Symposium in California in search of partnerships and customers.

Under the banner of the Department for International Trade’s ‘Exporting is GREAT’ campaign, Heathrow Airport awarded a total of £40,000 in seed money to firms seeking funding for international trade missions and foreign market research. Responsive Access, part of a growing number of space sector start-up firms emerging throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK, is focused on simplifying access to space for smallsat customers looking to reach orbit in the near future.

The company, based at Edinburgh’s Royal Observatory building, is a participant in the ESA BIC UK, a prestigious business incubation program funded by the European Space Agency and UK Science and Technology Facilities Council.

As well as attending this major event, the company is understood to have lined up visits to the facilities of a number of launch vehicle developers to discuss the formalization of partnerships that will allow their customers to select the most suitable ride to orbit for their payloads.

On the business’ most recent award, CEO Andrew Paliwoda said the company is really excited to have the opportunity to travel to this event as it holds enormous potential for the firm to raise awareness about this project and to source potential customers. Heathrow Airport and the DIT’s support, such as the ESA funding previously received, is something the company immensely proud of obtaining. We can’t wait to show potential partners the results of the team’s hard work to date and the firm’s message to anyone looking to launch a payload into space is simple – let’s set up a meeting.

Ross Baker, Heathrow’s CCO, said that Britain’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and Heathrow is proud to stand behind them. Whether it’s a Scottish company looking to cut the cost of space travel or a premium chocolate company from Yorkshire, this year’s winners set a new mark and Heathrow is proud to be helping take their products to markets around the world.

Get SAT and Hellas Sat Demo Enhanced Capabilities on Hellas Sat’s Network

Get SAT and Hellas Sat have successfully demonstrated SATCOM capabilities on Hellas Sat’s network.

Hellas Sat and GetSAT’s partnership offers significant capability enhancements on Hellas Sat 4 satellite, with coverage over Europe, the Middle East and Southern Africa.

Using Get SAT’s MilliSAT-W terminal installed at Hellas Sat’s Kofinou, Cyprus, Earth Station and the Hellas Sat 4 Ku-Band satellite located at 39°E, the companies created a powerful comms link that exceeded expected parameters.

The satellite, which began commercial operations in Q3 2019, meets the growing capacity demand for applications including video, maritime connectivity, cellular backhaul, corporate networks and government services.

Artistic rendition of a Hellas Sat member of the firm’s constellation. Image is courtesy of the company.

Get SAT terminals provide highly versatile, mobile solutions for applications requiring smaller terminals. As the leading provider of new generation micronized terminals, they set new standards for lightweight, small-sized and low power consumption communication devices.

Their fast-tracking technologies, using a miniaturized interlaced flat panel antenna that combines receive and transmit elements and moves at speeds of 200 degrees per second, enable quick and easy access to broadband services.

Ilias Tsakalis, COO of Hellas Sat, stated that the company is proud to enhance Hellas Sat 4’s Ku-band capabilities via Get SAT’s terminals to our customers, including those requiring SATCOM-On-The-Move (SOTM). By expanding options for the customers’ applications, the company more closely aligns to their growing businesses and adds more capacity for their needs.

Kfir Benjamin, Get SAT CEO, added that Hellas Sat 4’s Ku-band has allowed the firm to fully demonstrate the capability of Get SAT’s exciting technologies. The cooperation between Get SAT and Hellas Sat technologies supports high data rates, adds value for their customers and enables us to pursue new potential users.

$100 Million Euros Garnered by Kinéis for the IoT Smallsats

Kinéis has reached its capital-raising target of 100 million euros.

CLS, CNES, Bpifrance via the fund for Industrial Project Companies (SPI), financed by the ‘Investments for the Future’ Program and the European Investment Bank, Ifremer, Thales, CELAD, BNP Paribas Développement, HEMERIA and other industrial and financial partners are investing in and supporting Kinéis’ ambition to provide universal satellite connectivity.

Twenty-five smallsats will be added to complement the service which has been provided by the Argos system to scientific and environmental communities for more than 40 years. Kinéis will also develop its activity in the new markets opened up by the IoT.

Kinéis has completed an historic capital-raising campaign, established strategic commercial partnerships with Bouygues Telecom, Suez, the Wize Alliance and Arribada and filled their order book. This new French global connectivity provider, which already has eight operational satellites, has now become the first IoT satellite connectivity player to finance its development, from the construction of the firm’s constellation to the launch of its 25 nanosatellites, scheduled for 2022, and the development of its ground segment.

This young company is fulfilling its financial and industrial promises as well as their commercial and partnership commitments and is aiming to take their place in the NewSpace landscape.

Alexandre Tisserant

Alexandre Tisserant, who was appointed President of Kinéis, said the company is proud to have reached this major milestone. With the funds needed to launch the company’s constellation, the firm is now free to focus entirely on satellite manufacturing and commercial deployment. The unfailing support of CNES, the French space agency, underlines the project’s importance and signals that we are benefiting from major technical support.

The Kinéis constellation already consists of Argos operational payloads on seven satellites and a prototype nanosatellite, ANGELS, which was placed into orbit on December 18 last year. France’s first industrial nanosatellite, developed with the support of CNES and operated from the Toulouse Space Centre, carries technology similar to that of Kinéis.

Artistic rendition of the ANGELS smallsat. Image is courtesy of David Ducros.

The company stated that this launch and the first successful reception of messages bodes well for the future Kinéis system, which is being developed by the same industrial team: Thales Alenia Space (architect of the system, which is in charge of the development of payloads with Syrlinks, and which is responsible for ground stations and the mission control centre) and HEMERIA (which is responsible for the satellite platforms and integration).

The project is intended to be exemplary regarding environmental issues in that it uses smallsats which, in addition to complying with France’s Space Operations Act, are intended to avoid space debris. The Kinéis satellites, weighing less than 30 kg., will be equipped with an electric propulsion system that will secure end-of-life de-orbiting and enable collision-avoidance capabilities.


Now Ready for Launch… 34 OneWeb Satellites to Depart for Orbit from Baikonur

Thirty-four satellites for the OneWeb constellation are ready for launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. 7

The satellites, which arrived in two shipments that included one last week, have been tested and have now been fitted into the dispenser of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket. OneWeb’s upcoming launch of these satellites has been scheduled for Thursday, February 6, at 21:42 (GMT) / Friday, February7, at 02:42 (local time) from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The satellites, which are manufactured at 1/50th of the cost of a traditional spacecraft, are all fitted with plasma thrusters that enable them to reach their correct position in LEO at 1,200 km.

The flight readiness team at Baikonur with the OneWeb satellites.

Photo is courtesy of the company.

The OneWeb constellation will provide global connectivity with an initial 650 satellites. OneWeb’s mission is to provide affordable, high-speed internet connectivity everywhere for everyone, by 2021. After this first launch from Baikonur, OneWeb is planning to launch around 30 satellites via Soyuz rockets every month.

Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Airbus Space Systems, stated that this launch will be a massive step forward for OneWeb – one step closer to the ambition of improving global connectivity. These 34 satellites will join the six that are currently flawlessly operating on-orbit. The company’s joint venture OneWeb Satellites produces two satellites a day.

Tony Gingiss, CEO, OneWeb Satellites, said watching the first batch of the firm’s factory-built satellites launch from the Soyuz will be the realization of a four-year journey… and just the beginning. OneWeb Satellites’ factory continues to ramp up and streamline the production to deliver the next batch… and the next… and the next…

Space Flight Laboratory and Kepler Communications Collaborate on Fully Operational Nanosatellite Constellation

Space Flight Laboratory’s (SFL) expertise has been enlisted by Kepler Communications to design and build Kepler’s first operational nano satellite that will be the beginning of a constellation of communications satellites. In addition, SFL will assist Kepler in establishing a production facility in Toronto where nanosatellites will be mass produced based on the design of this first satellite by SFL. 

As the first operational satellite is developed, SFL personnel will provide training and technical support to Kepler as it creates a manufacturing workflow capable of assembling and integrating the additional operational nanosatellites. This mass production will occur in a 5,000-square-foot facility Kepler has built at its headquarters in Toronto, which will enable Kepler to build and maintain its planned constellation of 140 satellites.

SFL currently is exhibiting in Booth 17 at SmallSat Symposium 2020 from February 3-6 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

Working with Kepler on design specifications, SFL is developing a new 6U-XL nanosatellite platform tailored to accommodate the communications payload. The operational nanosatellites, referred to by Kepler as its Gen1 cluster, will incorporate significant upgrades from the demonstration satellites and offer higher data capacities. Established in 1998, SFL has built more than 25 distinct nano- and microsatellites with over 115 cumulative years of successful operation in orbit.

Kepler Communications’ headquarters is in Toronto, where for more than 21 years the company has developed next-generation satellite communication technologies and provides global data backhaul services for wideband and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. With two demonstration satellites in orbit and another planned for launch this year, Kepler specializes in providing affordable high-capacity connectivity to underserved geographic areas.

SFL Director Dr. Robert E. Zee stated that their collaboration with Kepler is an excellent example of how a microspace company can support the business model of a newspace organization. Kepler is able to leverage the extensive design expertise, heritage, and on-orbit performance of SFL and combine that with the cost benefits of inhouse manufacturing.

Kepler’s CEO and co-founder Mina Mitry added that SFL’s abundant experience and heritage in the small satellite industry lends them confidence in the new developments and allows them to establish a baseline of technical credibility and assurance for the spacecraft that they can continue to build upon in the years ahead.

Dr. Zee continued that they are designing the Gen1 cluster with the reliability, performance, and capabilities needed to meet the demands of fully commercial operations and the newspace business model.


SSTL and NOC Demo Polar Sea Ice Detection via Smallsat Instrument

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) and partner the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) have released new datasets that demonstrate how reflections of satellite navigation signals collected in space can be used to accurately map the extent of the sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic.

The measurements were taken by an SSTL smallsat called TechDemoSat-1 that was launched in 2014. The smallsat carried the SGR-ReSI, an instrument designed to demonstrate accurate measurement of ocean wind speeds around the globe using GNSS reflectometry.

The innovative new datasets use reflected Navigation signals from small satellite TechDemoSat-1.

Chart is courtesy of SSTL.

With funding from ESA, NOC developed the algorithms to estimate the wind speed from GNSS reflections, and recently added the capability to discriminate between ocean and ice. By exploiting the way that GNSS signals are used as radar sources it is believed that the ice edges can be detected with a higher resolution than using passive sensing methods, and this information is potentially valuable for shipping and off-shore energy, as well as climate and polar ice research.

Images show the sea ice extent during November 2018 over the Arctic and Antarctic. The hole over the North Pole shows the high latitude limit of the TechDemoSat-1 satellite’s ability to collect GPS satellite reflections.  The full set of Sea Ice detection data is available free of charge from data portal

The SGR-ReSI instrument from SSTL is flying on the 8-satellite NASA CYGNSS mission that was launched in 2016 to enable the measurement of hurricanes. The sensor can be carried on a smallsate and a future constellation could offer low delay, high accuracy ice edge mapping, in addition to the other benefits GNSS reflectometry brings over land, ice and ocean.

Artistic rendition of SSTl’s TechDemoSat-1 smallsat.

SSTL is working on a number of projects to exploit GNSS reflectometry for different applications and the SSTL HydroGNSS concept for sensing land hydrographic climate variables using GNSS reflectometry has recently been down-selected for the ESA Scout mission opportunity.

Phil Brownnett, Managing Director of SSTL, said that this is another important demonstration of the benefits of GNSS-Reflectometry for both commercial and scientific communities. SSTL, in collaboration with partners, has taken this new technique from feasibility to a world-leading capability which will see new missions uncovering further applications over ocean, ice and land.

Giuseppe Foti, Senior Scientist of NOC, added that these recent results show how collaboration between academia and industry is critically important to improve our understanding of ocean and ice processes that have a global impact on our planet.

C-COM Satellite Systems Executive Participating in SmallSat Symposium 2020

Drew Klein, the VP for C-COM Satellite Systems, will be participating in the Ground Equipment Innovations panel on Wednesday, February 5th, starting at 10:15 a.m. at the SmallSat Symposium now underway at The Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, California

C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. designs, develops, and manufactures mobile, auto-deploy, motorized antenna systems for the delivery of broadband internet to any location via satellite. The company manufactures their iNetVu® brand in Driveaway (vehicle mount), Flyaway (transportable), Manpack (backpack) and FMA (fixed motorized) format.

With more than 8,500 systems deployed in over 100 countries, C-COM is a leader in commercial grade mobile antenna sales.