The Design for a New Smallsat Launch Vehicle has been Completed by the ISRO

The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

Photo is courtesy of ISRO.

ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) at Thumba, India, has completed the design for the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) — the ‘baby rocket’ is billed as the quickest way to space for small-size satellites — the SSLV promises on-demand access to space, with the rocket assembly taking a mere 15 days and requiring minimum personnel to accomplish the build, VSSC officials stated.

On the launchpad, the SSLV will stand 34 meters (nearly 12 feet) tall, 10 meters (33 feet) shorter than the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and around 15 meters (40 feet) shorter than the Mk-II version of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch vehicle (GSLV). SSLV is also a ‘thinner’ launch vehicle, possessing a diameter of just two meters (6-1/2 feet).

With a lift-off mass of 120 tons, the SSLV can place a 500 kg. payload at a height of 500 km. into LEO. The SSLV has three solid motor stages, and similar to the PSLV and GSLV, can accommodate multiple satellites, albeit smaller ones. Unlike the PSLV and GSLV, the SSLV can be assembled vertically and horizontally. The rocket’s bigger siblings are assembled only in an upright position in the assembly bays at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.

Executive Comment

S. Rakesh, CMD of Antrix Corporation, ISRO’s commercial arm, said that the SSLV is like the old SLV and ASLV, which could be assembled flat on the ground, The launch vehicle is expected to be a money spinner for the corporation, which will be jointly managing the rocket with ISRO.

Cloud Constellation Receives Funding Commitment from HCH Group Company

Cloud Constellation Corporation, a space-based cloud service provider of data security services, has received a commitment of $100 million from HCH Group Company, Ltd., toward the firm’s Series “B” equity round.

Cloud Constellation’s SpaceBelt™ is an innovative cloud service for the protection of an organization’s strategic, mission-critical data assets and is a Data Security as a Service (DSaaS) that offers secure, global managed network services and cloud data storage in space to enterprise, government and military organizations.

Envisioned as an extension of an organization’s enterprise network, SpaceBelt provides secure, dynamic network and cloud data storage services between any locations on Earth.

Using a network of eight satellites in LEO, SpaceBelt provides the strongest data security possible, whether at rest or in motion, by providing global isolation of an organization’s high-value, highly sensitive data assets from the data breach risk of terrestrial networks.

Executive Comment

Cliff Beek, CEO and President, SpaceBelt

Clifford W. Beek, CEO and president, Cloud Constellation Corporation, said that HCH’s financial commitment to SpaceBelt builds on the firm’s momentum to execute on the company’s vision to offer global data protection that leverages commercial space.

Forrester Reports: IEEE Indicates SpaceX Starlink Constellation will Generate Hundreds of Fragments… Scottish Investor for SpaceX…

The influential Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have said that the proposed mega-constellation of SpaceX’s ‘Starlink’ fleet of satellites will generate “hundreds of fragments” when one of the LEO craft fails in space, this information with a new posting by journalist Chris Forrester at Advanced TV.

The IEEE, in its ‘Spectrum’ report, has calculated the risks of an injury or death at 45 percent over a six year period of time. The IEEE is using data and analysis from SpaceX and submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Artistic rendition of the SpaceX Starlink constellation.

Elon Musk is backing the Starlink constellation of an eventual 12,000 satellites which he hopes will eventually carry around half of the planet’s Internet traffic. Musk’s plan will be achieved in three stages. First will be the launch of 1,584 satellites each at 550 kms high. Another 2825 satellites will follow, but at orbits ranging from between 1100 to 1325 kms. Stage 3 will see a much larger group of satellites, numbering 7,518 and operating in Very Low Earth Orbit at just 340 kms high.

The IEEE describes each satellite as being about the size of a Tesla Model 3, and comprising solar panels, batteries, communications kit and laser gear, plus fuel. Each satellite should last about 6 years, and then fall out of orbit and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

“Except,” as the IEEE states, “some won’t”. SpaceX, in its FCC filing, stated that several kilograms of each Starlink craft could hit the planet. Much of the plant is water, desert or other sparsely populated areas. However, NASA’s Debris Assessment Software calculates that there is — at most — a 1 in 18,200 chance of a fragment hitting someone and just 1 in 10,000 chance of a hit from the Very Low Earth Orbiting craft.

However, more worrying perhaps is that some six years after launch, an average of five satellites a day will fall to Earth, according to the FCC’s calculations. This equates, said the IEEE, to an injury or death about every six years.

Chris Forrester.

SpaceX, in fairness, reminds us that between 62 and 242 meteorites larger than 10 grams — which is quite small — make it to ground level on an average day — and few do any harm. Moreover, with 7.5 billion people on Earth, the risk to any one individual is refreshingly low.

Also posted by Chris at Advanced TV is information that one portion of the $500 million in fresh funding for SpaceX is being derived from Scotland-based investment management firm Baillie Gifford.

Baillie Gifford is also the largest investor (7 percent, and worth some $4.6 billion) in Musk’s Tesla electric car business. The fresh cash places a market value on SpaceX of some $30 billion. SpaceX is not publicly quoted.

This latest move, around the 17th cash-raising exercise made by SpaceX, is reported by the Wall Street Journal as likely to close by year-end. Baillie Gifford is also an investor in Amazon, Alibaba, Facebook, Baidu and Alphabet/Google.

It is reported that the extra funds will go to help Elon Musk bring his Starlink broadband by satellite project to fruition. Investment bank Morgan Stanley said that — if Starlink is successful — such will help drive SpaceX’s valuation to more than $50 billion.

First Smallsat Rideshare on an ISRO PSLV for Spire Smallsats is Signed by NanoRacks

NanoRacks has signed their first customer contract for a smallsat rideshare on the India Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) — Spire, a long-time customer of NanoRacks, has signed to fly four of their Lemur 3U cubesats, targeting a March 2019 flight.

Artistic rendition of the Lemur-2 smallsat.

Image is courtesy of Spire.

Spire’s CubeSats offer data and analytics for parts of the world where collecting data is notoriously difficult, tracking ships, planes, and weather in remote regions which often go unmonitored. To date, of the 80+ satellites Spire has launched, 37 have been deployed into orbit via NanoRacks from both the International Space Station and the Cygnus spacecraft.

The Cygnus resupply ship with its round, brass-colored UltraFlex solar arrays is guided to its port on the Unity module shortly after it was captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on May 24, 2018.

Photo is courtesy of NASA.

For this PSLV opportunity NanoRacks is working with Berlin-based Astro -und Feinwerktechnik Adlershof GmbH (Astrofein) to manufacture and supply deployers and is coordinating this launch opportunity with Antrix Corporation Limited (Antrix), the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

Polar orbit opportunities come in addition to NanoRacks’ market leadership in LEO, which includes smallsat deployments from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) and Kaber Deployer on the International Space Station, as well as the External NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (E-NRCSD) mounted on the exterior of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft.

NanoRacks has deployed more than 220 smallsats into LEO to date, sparking accelerated growth for numerous startup companies, providing educational opportunities, and driving the market for commercial access to space.

Executive Comments

Jenny Barna, Spire’s Launch Director, said the extension of NanoRacks to launching with PSLV is an opportunity to work with a familiar and trusted partner. Tracking of ships, planes, and weather on a global basis relies on having many satellites in a varied set of orbits. To efficiently reach some orbits, the launch must occur from a location on the planet that lends itself to that goal.

NanoRacks’ SVP for Business Development, Richard Pournelle,added that the company prides itself on being launch-agnostic. Spire has proven to be both a great partner and customer, being the first to explore and prove the firm’s Cygnus deployment opportunities, and now our offerings on PSLV. NanoRacks’ focus is always on the customer, so if the customer needs a certain orbit, the company is here to provide that opportunity to them as the firm is much more than just an International Space Station company.

GOMX-5 Satellite Mission Contract Signed Between ESA and GOMSpace

GOMSpace has signed a 300,000 euros development contract with ESA for the initiation of a new GOMX-5 satellite mission to demonstrate new smallsat capabilities for the next generation of constellations that require high speed communications links and high levels of maneuverability.

The mission will consist of two smallsats in the 20 kg. class with an improved platform for increased power handling and reliability. Further, the satellites will be equipped with a number of advanced communication technology payloads to be announced after final selection.

The present contract covers design and specification work planned for 2019 and is expected to be followed by additional contracts for the subsequent implementation. Launch for the GOMX-5 mission is foreseen to be in 2021.

Executive Comment

Niels Buus, the CEO of GomSpace, said the company is happy that the firm, with the support from ESA, can continue with the next chapter of the successful GOMX flight demonstration program. With the GOMX program, the company continuously develops and demonstrates new capabilities for nanosatellites that can depend on for their future programs.

World’s Smallest Infrared Hyperspectral Camera Reaches Space Aboard a Smallsat

A pioneering Finnish smallsat has now reached space equipped with the world’s smallest infrared hyperspectral camera.

Reaktor Hello World smallsat.

The photos with infrared data taken from the satellite provide new solutions for monitoring and managing the effects of climate change. The hyperspectral camera is a trailblazing innovation from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The Reaktor Hello World smallsat was launched into space on November 29 by the Finnish space technology startup Reaktor Space Lab.

In the past, hyperspectral imaging — the simultaneous collection of the optical spectrum at each point in an image — was feasible only with larger, exorbitantly priced satellites. The larger satellites also came with significant restrictions: a single satellite provides new data only when passing over a specific location and produces new imagery on several-day intervals.

New smallsats, such as the Reaktor Hello World satellite weighing only a couple of kilograms, are relatively inexpensive and fast to build. In groups, smallsats can form cost-efficient constellations. With the help of the new Finnish imaging technology, smallsats are now able to collect critical, nearly real-time data on the state of our planet. That development has far-reaching benefits for monitoring climate change.

The infrared wavelength region shown by the hyperspectral imager contains a significant amount of data. That data can be used to recognize ground targets such as fields, forests, mines or built infrastructure and analyze their features based on unique spectral fingerprints. Such features could be related to the presence of chemicals like fertilizers, biomass content or rock species, for example. Hyperspectral imagers can also monitor vegetation health and the composition of greenhouse gases.

The infrared hyperspectral imager on board the Reaktor Hello World smallsat is a small, lightweight, 2D-snapshot tunable spectral imager operating in the short-wave infrared spectra (900–1400 nm). The world’s first smallsat compatible hyperspectral imager built by VTT was launched on board the Aalto-1 satellite in June of 2017, demonstrating hyperspectral imaging for visible and VNIR range (500 – 900 nm). Now, the technology has successfully been extended to cover also the infrared range. In the future, the team believes that this hyperspectral imaging technology can bring completely new solutions for space exploration.

The first images were taken on December 2 over the Sahara desert and they were downloaded from the Reaktor Hello World during the first weeks of December.

”The image to the right Sahara shows how the water content of an area can be determined and mapped based on infrared spectral image data,” explained Antti Näsilä, Senior Scientist at VTT and the leading technical expert for the camera development of the Reaktor Hello World smallsat mission. “This type of information could prove crucial for areas fighting drought or forest fires, both of which are becoming more common with the changing climate. In the future, nanosatellite constellations could provide, for instance, concurring updates about the severity of the droughts in each neighborhood in California.

The image to the left offers false color images of desert highland in southern Sahara. The image on the left depicts the changes of the soil type across the image while the image on the right displays changes in soil moisture. The water reservoir in the upper part of the image is very well highlighted in this image, when compared to the dark rocks.

Executive Comment

Tuomas Tikka, CEO of Reaktor Space Lab, Reaktor’s portfolio company that specializes in building advanced nanosatellites for space-based services, said this new technology will allow the company to react to global environmental changes in near real time. That opens up many new business opportunities.

Series A Funding Completed by ATLAS Space Operations

ATLAS Space Operations has completed their Series A funding, which included an investment from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund (ROTR).

This latest funding round provides ATLAS with an enhanced ability to accelerate its already rapid expansion of the FreedomGround Network the company’s global network of strategically placed satellite antennas.

Currently, ATLAS is developing ground sites in Tahiti, Guam, Japan, and in Chile, as well as an additional ground station in the U.S., to be located at ATLAS’ corporate headquarters in Traverse City, Michigan. All of these will be added to the Freedom™ Ground Network which includes U.S. based antennas in California, New Mexico, and Washington; and international locations in Ghana, Finland and New Zealand.

Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund makes early stage investments in companies outside of the coastal tech hubs that are disrupting traditional industries with innovative products and services. Revolution is led by Steve Case, Co-Founder of America Online (AOL).

Executive Comments

J.D. Vance, Managing Partner for ROTR, said that ATLAS’ innovative service fills a rapidly growing need for access to space. Their platform promises to provide customers with a single, more secure, point-of-access to space communications, via the Freedom™ Network of ground-station antenna. With its headquarters in Traverse City, Michigan, ATLAS is another example of a great company starting and scaling outside of Silicon Valley.

ATLAS Co-Founder and CEO, Sean McDaniel said ROTR shares the company’s vision for innovation. Ground-to-space communications may not be as flashy as rockets, but it is an integral component for every space mission. ROTR’s investment in ATLAS doesn’t just validate ATLAS as an industry innovator, it represents a financially-backed understanding that the company’s technology, which capitalizes on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, is the way of the future for ground-to-space communication.

Ovzon Signs On SSL to Manufacture The Company’s First Satellite

Ovzon has signed a contract with SSL, a Maxar Technologies company, for the manufacture of the company´s first GEO satellite.

The total investment for the satellite (Ovzon-3) including manufacturing, launch, financing and insurance is estimated to approximately SEK 1.5 billion. The satellite will feature a central, On-Board Processor (OBP), developed by Ovzon and already in manufacturing by a third party, tied to high performance steerable beams. With the new satellite, Ovzon will significantly increase the performance and coverage area of its existing service. The satellite is expected to be completed in 2021 and the launch period with SpaceX has been adjusted accordingly. The contract is conditional on Ovzon raising financing.

Executive Comments

Per Wahlberg, CEO of Ovzon, said the satellite will enable new functionality such as single hop communication between very small terminals and will be a powerful future-proof tool to meet challenging communications requirements. The company now continues to strive to further revolutionize mobile broadband via satellite by offering the highest bandwidth through the smallest terminals.

Dario Zamarian, Group President of SSL, added that the company’s collaboration with Ovzon underscores the demand for a new class of communication satellite that is flexible, affordable and highly advance. SSL brings the innovation and heritage required to help Ovzon deliver a new class of mobile broadband service to its customers.


Rocket Lab Successfully Launches the 13-Smallsat ELaNa-19 Mission

U.S. smallsat launch company Rocket Lab has launched its third orbital mission of 2018, successfully deploying satellites to orbit for NASA.

The ELaNa19 mission liftoff aboard an Electron launch vehicle
from New Zealand. Photo is courtesy of Rocket Lab.

The mission, designated Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 , occurred just over a month after Rocket Lab’s last successful orbital launch, ‘It’s Business Time.’ Rocket Lab has now launched a total of 24 satellites to orbit in 2018.

On Sunday, December 16, 2018 UTC, Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle successfully lifted off at 06:33 UTC (19:33 NZDT) from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. After being launched to an elliptical orbit, Electron’s Curie engine-powered kick stage separated from the vehicle’s second stage before circularizing to a 500×500 km. orbit at an 85 degree inclination. By 56 minutes into the mission, the 13 satellites on board were  individually deployed to their precise, designated orbits. 

Until now, launch opportunities for smallsats have mostly been limited to rideshare-type arrangements, flying only when space is available on large launch vehicles. This mission, awarded under a Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) Agreement, marks the first time NASA CubeSats received a dedicated ride to orbit on a commercial launch vehicle. VCLS is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program headquartered at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The next Rocket Lab Electron vehicle will be on the pad at Launch Complex 1 in January of 2019

Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. Photo is courtesy of RocketLab.

The ELaNa-19 launch webcast can be viewed in full at

Executive Comments

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said that the ELaNa-19 mission represents a forward-thinking approach from NASA to acquiring launch services and recognizes the increasingly significant role small satellites are playing in exploration, technology demonstration, research and education. The ELaNa-19 mission was a significant one for NASA, the Rocket Lab team and the small satellite industry overall. To launch two missions just five weeks apart, and in the first year of orbital flights, is unprecedented. It’s exactly what the small satellite industry desperately needs, and Rocket Lab is proud to be delivering it. Regular and reliable launch is now a reality for small satellites. The wait is over — the company is now providing small satellite customers with more control than they’ve ever had, enabling them to launch on their own schedule, to precise orbits, as frequently as they need to.

NASA ELaNa-19 Mission Manager Justin Treptow added that the cubesats of ELaNa-19 represent a large variety of scientific objectives and technology demonstrations. With this the first launch of a Venture Class Launch Service on the Rocket Lab Electron, NASA now has an option to match their small satellite missions with a dedicated small launch vehicle to place these satellites in an optimal orbit to achieve big results.

Forrester Reports: OneWeb to Save Millions — Perhaps Even More…

Journalist Chris Forrester

The OneWeb ‘mega-constellation’ of low orbiting broadband satellites, originally planned to be around 900 in total, will now initially be around 600, says Founder and Executive chairman Greg Wyler, and reported by specialist publication Space Intel Report (SIR), with the information posted by journalist Chris Forrester at the Advanced TV infosite.

In the process, OneWeb will save an estimated $500,000 per satellite (and it could be more) leading to Capex cost savings on the satellite building program of some $300 million. Factor in the savings on launching the satellites, at around $60 million for each batch of around 30 craft, and there’s another saving of $600,000. Add to these numbers the reduction or elimination of insurance and other operational costs on the trimmed fleet and the overall cost savings could be well over $1 billion.

The savings — in satellites and launch costs — have come about because of improved transmission tests and capabilities on the small fleet of 10 satellites being built by Airbus at their Toulouse facility. The first scheduled launches are expected in February, says SIR, by a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Kourou launch site in French Guiana.

OneWeb is backed by Japanese media group SoftBank, as well as investments by Airbus, Intelsat, Virgin and others.

However, this reduction of the initial 900 to 600 satellites will not be the end of the OneWeb scheme. Phase 2 of the project will see more satellites launched to improve coverage, but this is now considered not necessary until Phase 1 is up and running – and probably with solid revenues. Nevertheless, this is still a $4 billion+ project for OneWeb.