Seed Round Closed by Earth Observant

Earth Observant Inc. (EOI) closed their seed round in the first quarter of this year.

Over the past 18 months, the company has been designing a constellation of low-flying satellites that leverage the team’s decades of experience developing propulsion systems and Earth imaging platforms.  The company’s propulsion system is currently in fabrication, with ground-based testing slated for the third quarter of 2020. In addition, EOI has down-selected its optical payload provider and has started development on the first optical payload.

EOI has designed a highly responsive platform for remote sensing and space domain awareness. This platform allows for a much higher quality product at a fraction of the cost of any existing or planned offerings. EOI’s mission is to make very-high resolution (VHR) imagery affordable and easily accessible to defense and intelligence agencies and commercial customers to support a range of applications such as resource management, environmental & disaster assessment, asset monitoring, logistics planning, infrastructure mapping, public safety, homeland security, insurance and real estate.

Many experts believe mass adoption of VHR imagery has been inhibited by limited coverage and high costs. EOI’s approach offers a paradigm shift in cost and quality by incorporating Very Low Earth Orbit into the constellation design. Starting in the next 24 months with one spacecraft, the initial constellation is designed to increase to 30 spacecraft that achieve an average revisit of every two hours, supporting constant monitoring services. To meet future demand, the constellation is easily expandable to accommodate additional satellites.

Christopher Thein, CEO of Earth Observant Inc., said this proprietary propulsion system will enable our satellites to maintain a significantly lower orbit than other Earth observation satellites. This approach will allow the satellite to capture data at a higher resolution and provide multiple revisits per day in key target areas for continually updated information.

Herb Satterlee, former CEO of MDA Information Systems and an Earth Observant Inc. board member, added this is a game changer for the growing EO industry. By combining superior resolution with excellent revisit rates, many traditional applications, as well as emerging machine learning technologies, will greatly benefit from persistent observations from space.


Orbital Deployment Contract Awarded by Sen to Momentus

Sen, a British space company establishing a video streaming service to provide real-time and timely Ultra-High Definition (UHD) video of Earth, and Momentus, a provider of in-space transportation services for satellites, today announced a contract for the orbital deployment of Sen’s first satellite, with an option to launch a further four satellites for Sen in 2022.

Under the agreement, Momentus’ Vigoride orbital transfer vehicles will carry Sen’s satellites to sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) riding on SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, with the first launch booked for summer 2021 and a further four satellites scheduled for late 2022. From their drop-off orbits, the Vigorides will deploy the EarthTV satellites to their final desired altitudes. In the case of the cluster of four, Vigoride will also equally distribute the satellites in their orbital plane.

Built by NanoAvionics under a separate contract that was announced in March, the EarthTV satellites are cubesats with a 16U form factor, which makes them the largest payloads contracted to Momentus so far. This is also the first agreement specifically leveraging the orbital maneuvering capabilities of the Vigoride shuttle.

Momentus will test fly the Vigoride transfer vehicle later this year. It is optimized for orbital maneuvers in low Earth orbit such as altitude raising, in plane phasing, change of orbital planes, correction of inclination, and more. Vigoride will commence operations in 2021 with up to three commercial missions by the end of that year. A more capable variant called Ardoride will be introduced in 2022-2023, offering larger capacity as well as the ability to deliver satellites to higher orbits – Geostationary and medium Earth orbits – and even to the Moon.

Founded in 2014, Sen already demonstrated 4K Ultra High Definition video from a satellite with six cameras during its first mission which launched in February 2019, filming both the satellite and wide-angle imagery of Earth with its steerable cameras. Sen’s videos will provide news and information to people who want to explore Earth and follow major events and planetary changes.

The videos will be freely accessible for individuals both online and with a smart phone app. Sen will also provide an open source data platform and premium services for businesses and organizations. Sen’s open source data platform will enable partner organisations to build apps and analytics using the video data with the aim of opening up new markets and uses for space data.

After the launch of Sen’s first five satellites, the company plans to grow its EarthTV constellation in LEO and also place video cameras in other orbits in deep space locations around Earth, the Moon and eventually beyond.

A graduate of the prestigious Y Combinator program and based in Santa Clara, California, Momentus announced a $25.5 million Series A raise last year, bringing total funding to nearly $50 million. Momentus employs new and proprietary technologies, including water plasma propulsion to enable revolutionary low cost orbital shuttle and charter services. The prototype of the Vigoride vehicle, “El Camino Real”, was launched and tested last year. The first Vigoride test mission is planned for December2020 on a SpaceX dedicated rideshare mission to sun-synchronous Orbit (SSO).

Charles Black, Sen Founder and CEO, said the EarthTV constellation of nano-satellites will stream real-time videos from space to smart phones so that everyone can enjoy the unique perspectives of Earth from space. The company is delighted to be working with Momentus for the launch requirements as we share a vision to democratize space for the benefit of humanity. Their launch services are flexible and very attractive for smallsat constellations.

Mikhail Kokorich, CEO of Momentus, added that the firm is elated to partner with Sen and kickstart this ambitious Earth gazing project. Sen and Momentus will be ideally positioned with the firm’s family of transfer vehicles for prospective growth.


Six Additional Planet SkySat Smallsats to Launch During the Summer

Planet is set to launch six more SkySat satellites (SkySats 16-21) into LEO this summer, rounding out the fleet of 15 SkySats already in operation.

SkySats 1-15 operate in Sun Synchronous Orbits (SSO), a specific type of Low Earth Orbit that results in the Earth’s surface always being illuminated by the Sun at the same angle when the satellite is capturing imagery. About half of the SkySats currently pass overhead in a morning crossing plane, while the other half moves in an afternoon crossing plane, so together they provide twice-daily coverage of select areas on a global scale.

SkySats 16-21 will operate at a “mid-inclination” orbit of 53 degrees, complimenting the SSO fleet, and will offer more targeted coverage and raw image capacity in key geographic regions.

The six SkySats will be evenly split across two launches on SpaceX’s Falcon 9, a two-stage reusable rocket that has successfully flown satellites and cargo over 80 times to orbit. They will do so as rideshare payloads on launches of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites.

SkySats 16-18 will launch on SpaceX’s ninth Starlink mission, targeted for launch in the next month, and SkySats 19-21 will launch later this summer. Both missions will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida.

The launch of SkySats 16-21, as well as the development of the company’s enhanced 50 cm imagery (to be made available to customers this year)—are just some examples of Planet’s evolving geospatial offerings.

Space Launch Complex 40 at Kennedy Space Center, with a Falcon 9 on the pad. Image is courtesy of Plant.


Momentus and Alba Orbital Sign Contract for as Many as 10 PocketQube Smallsats

Momentus and Alba Orbital have announced a contract for three Alba Albapods to ride on plaza deck of the Falcon 9 vehicle, which will launch in December 2020 from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

Alba Orbital is actively working with customers to launch clusters to their mission requirements via PocketQube deployers suitable for 1p, 1.5p, 2p or 3p PocketQube format smallsats. A PocketQube is a type of smallsat for space research that usually has a size of 5 cm cubed (one eighth the volume of a cubesat), has a mass of no more than 250 grams per unit, or ‘p.’

Alba Orbital’s PocketQube satellites are integrated into the Albapod deployers and mounted alongside Vigoride onto the ESPA Grande ring interface provided by SpaceX on their dedicated rideshare missions. Momentus is enabling Alba Orbital to have a regular launch cadence and mission flexibility in the future to ensure drop off orbital altitudes where their customers need it.

Based in Glasgow, Scotland, and Berlin, Germany, Alba Orbital wants to get more people building and launching their own satellites by democratizing access to space via the PocketQube standard. They provide a hub of support for PocketQube satellites by building their own platforms as well as ground stations and launch services to companies, universities and space agencies around the world. Momentus’ flexible shuttle service is a perfect complement to Alba’s offering.

A graduate of the prestigious Y Combinator program and based in Santa Clara, California, Momentus announced a $25.5 million Series A raise last year, bringing total funding to nearly $50 million. Momentus employs new and proprietary technologies, including water plasma propulsion to enable revolutionary low cost orbital shuttle and charter services. The prototype of the Vigoride vehicle, “El Camino Real,” was launched and tested last year. The first full-scale Vigoride test mission is planned for Q4 of 2020 on the SpaceX dedicated rideshare mission.

Tom Walkinshaw, CEO and Founder of Alba Orbital, said the company is very excited to be partnering with Momentus on their first rideshare mission in December, where we plan to deploy a record number of PocketQubes in orbit. The flexibility which Momentus offers enables access to proven rocket platforms, increasing mission reliability and performance.

Mikhail Kokorich, CEO of Momentus, added Alba Orbital is a key partner for Momentus, enabling the company to service PocketQube customers with demonstration missions in form factors even smaller than cubesats. The firm looks forward to launching 10 PocketQubes in December as well as many more in the near future.


New Space Electronics Now Being Offered for Constellations by RUAG Space

RUAG Space is now offering new electronics that are suited to the needs of satellite constellations.

For constellations of hundreds or thousands of smallsats, products in high volumes, lower cost, on-time and on-quality delivery are needed. RUAG Space has developed novel products and processes specifically meeting the needs of satellite constellations. The international space supplier with sites in six different countries and headquartered in Switzerland is offering new electronic and mechanical products for constellations.

Peter Guggenbach, EVP, RUAG Space, stated that the company can offer a unique mix of the firm’s vast experience in hundreds of space missions, combined with the company’s high volume production that fosters lean operations and automated processes, to customers. For constellations, RUAG offers the world leading navigation product, fully embedded on the onboard-computer. RUAG’s constellation Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver is offering a high quality and cost-effective solution for applications deployed in larger quantities. The receiver can precisely determine a satellite’s position in orbit and works with both GPS and Galileo signals. In total, more than 20 navigation receivers from RUAG Space are currently in orbit and functioning flawlessly since 2006.

RUAG’s new onboard-computer for constellations (cOBC) is the “brain” of a satellite. The onboard computer controls and monitors the payload of the satellite and many other subsystems. For constellation onboard computing RUAG offers a combination of its cOBC and its constellation Interface Unit products (cIU).

Direct technical interface for U.S. customers For its entire electronics portfolio – from onboard-computers, navigation receivers to antennas and more – RUAG Space offers a direct technical interface in its office in Denver, Colorado – offering a customer service close to U.S. clients.

Mechanisms for constellations RUAG Space also offers new mechanisms to its satellite constellations customers, for example mechanisms that point the small satellite’s engines. The electric propulsion is necessary to bring the satellite exactly into its position and to maintain this position over the lifetime of several years. In January RUAG’s electric propulsion pointing mechanisms have been successfully used for the Eutelsat KONNECT satellite.

Guggenbach added that the company’s pointing mechanisms are carefully designed to minimize mass, manage orbital temperature extremes and deliver exact pointing accuracy over many years of service lifetime.

Established products for constellations are RUAG’s dispensers, structures, thermal insulation and satellite handling equipment. A low cost solar array drive mechanism from RUAG Space is also currently in qualification, with completion expected by the end of 2020.

Additional information is available at this direct infolink…

Satellite IoT Network Development by New Company SatIoTLab

Huge investments are underway in the satellite upstream market, to built and launch a new generation of smallsat IoT networks that will bring the world low costs / low power IoT connectivity.

On the downstream side, satellite IoT application development receives much less attention, although the true value lies there.

SatIoTLab founded the satellite application lab to support the development of global satIoT applications and to form IoT solution value chains. The company believes the largest benefits of satellite IoT will be in the public and government sector, where wide area monitoring applications will serve various UN goals to the benefit of society.

What we do in the SatIoTLab:

1. Educate next gen IoT professionals in the public and government sector on the use of satellite based connectivity for global IoT applications

2. Provide Lab facility for satIoT application development (think: satIoT Makerspace, Workshops and Hackatons)

3. Create a satIoT community to form value chains for the different vertical markets to engage in projects.


To learn more, select the screenshot below to view an introductory video...

Smallsat Catalog Published by Orbital Transports Offers Total Mission Support

Orbital Transports, Inc. has debuted their Small Satellite Catalog on its website. By bringing the entire small satellite supply chain online, Orbital Transports is able to offer hardware, software, services, and engineering expertise in a single, searchable, structured catalog.

The first resource of its kind, this catalog offers everything a satellite operator or user needs to plan a successful mission.

The catalog offers a wide variety of small satellite hardware components, small satellite buses specialized for common space missions, ground station services, and mission operations software from more than a dozen partner companies. Orbital Transports has brought together the industry’s most innovative and reliable companies to offer the widest possible set of solutions while meeting clients’ quality requirements. The catalog will also grow in the near future to include launch, legal, and regulatory services.

Following the launch of the catalog, Orbital Transports will also release an online mission builder “wizard” that will allow users to define their goals and then guide them in building a complete spacecraft including selecting their payload, bus, timeframe, orbit, and launch. In combination with the online catalog, this mission builder tool will allow anyone who is interested in obtaining valuable data from space to quickly and easily design and execute their mission.

The catalog is just the beginning, noted the company’s CEO, David Hurst, who added that Orbital Transports offers a complete mission outsourcing, including assembly, testing, and integration. The firm can even book a launch, operate a mission and deliver data. If there is a need to get something to space, Orbital Transports can handle the entire process as the company focuses on making the mission successful. Customers don’t have to do the research to find vendors and build relationships with dozens of individual companies because Orbital Transports has already accomplished that task, creating the trusted source that customers can turn to for all their smallsat mission needs.


Rocket Crafters Prepares for Launch Following Successful Testing of the Comet Rocket Engine

Rocket Crafters is currently developing, testing, and prototyping the STAR-3D™ hybrid engine.

Rocket Crafters, the first space launch company to use additive manufacturing to 3D print rocket fuel, has concluded testing for their Comet engine, a large-scale, proof of concept test model of the company’s STAR-3D™ hybrid rocket engine.

The tests were designed to show that the patent-pending hybrid rocket engines could scale from the laboratory to a size more commercially relevant. With 49 successful laboratory tests under their belt ranging from 250 to 500 pounds of thrust, Rocket Crafters initiated testing of the Comet 5000-pound thrust engine in February of this year.

Comet was tested three times. The first two tests were successful, closely matching the performance models that Rocket Crafters created. While still considered successful in terms of research and development, the third test experienced an overpressure anomaly, resulting in damage to the test stand and test engine.

After the anomaly, the Rocket Crafters engineering team dug deep into the hardware and recorded data to determine what had occurred and how to prevent it in future tests. After extensive analysis, it was concluded that there was an initial failure in an ancillary part of the engine. This led to a larger over-pressurization inside the combustion chamber. The team found no problems within the core STAR-3DTM engine design.

Rocket Crafters President, Robert Fabian, who is a 25 year veteran of military space and missile operations and maintenance,said this is the why of tests. Problems are found and fixed in testing, so they don’t occur on the launch pad.

With the completion of the large-scale proof of concept testing, Rocket Crafters is taking their lessons learned and applying them to their next big project — a test flight powered by a smaller version of the STAR-3DTM hybrid rocket engine. This will be Rocket Crafters’ inaugural launch of a flight engine and the first opportunity to see the performance in motion rather than bolted to a test stand.

Rocket Crafters has planned two more consecutively larger test flights into space and back to Earth and then into orbit. Not long after that, commercial service to LEO with the Intrepid smallsat launch vehicle will begin.

Rocket Crafters, based in Florida’s Space Coast, is a propulsion and launch services company, focused on producing the safest, more reliable, and affordable rocket engine ever produced. Transitioning from research into commercial relations, Rocket Crafters has developed engine technology that the space industry has long been searching for; a payload-to-orbit transport system that is not only safe and reliable, but also with pricing based upon the market and a rapid launch cadence that is driven by that safety and low cost.

With the inaugural launch of the Intrepid™, the company will be starting their full launch services. Intrepid™ will serve the small to medium satellite market, specializing in companies that require satellites delivered safely, reliably, and in a cost effective manner to LEO.


Arianespace Getting Set for Upcoming Vega and Ariane 5 Missions

A pair of important arrivals this week – one by air, the other by sea – marked an acceleration of preparations at Europe’s Spaceport for Arianespace’s next two missions, to be performed from French Guiana with its lightweight Vega and heavy-lift Ariane 5 launch vehicles.

These parallel arrivals involved personnel who will conduct the first Vega “rideshare” mission, scheduled for mid-June to orbit 53 small satellite payloads; and Ariane 5 launch vehicle components for a three-passenger flight planned for liftoff this summer.

Team members for the Vega launch campaign were flown in aboard a chartered airliner that touched down at Félix Eboué Airport near the French Guiana capital city of Cayenne. They will be responsible for preparing this mission’s liftoff from the Vega Launch Complex (ZLV), located on the Kourou side of the Spaceport.

As the personnel were settling in, main launcher components for the Ariane 5 flight were being unloaded from the MN Toucan, one of two roll-on/roll-off sea-going ships operated for Arianespace, which docked at Paricabo Port near Kourou. After unloading, the components were to be taken by road to the Ariane 5’s ELA-3 launch complex – also situated on the Spaceport’s Kourou side.

Launch activities in French Guiana had been suspended mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and were gradually resumed – carried out in strict compliance with health rules published by the Prefect of French Guiana, as well as the French CNES space agency and the Guiana Space Center.

Vega proof-of-concept flight for SSMS
Designated Flight VV16 in Arianespace’s numbering system, Vega’s mission will be the first of the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) – a program initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2016, with the contribution of the European Commission. For all the European partners involved, its purpose is to perfectly address the burgeoning microsatellite market for institutional and commercial customers alike.

The modular SSMS dispenser was designed to be as market-responsive as possible, able to accommodate a wide combination of payloads – from a main large satellite with smaller companions to multiple smaller satellites, or dozens of individual CubeSats.

Flight VV16 will be Arianespace’s fifth launch overall in 2020, and its first this year using the lightweight Vega member of its launch vehicle family – which also includes the heavy-lift Ariane 5 and medium-lift Soyuz.

The satellite passengers on Flight VV16 will be deployed by Vega to Sun-synchronous orbits. They will serve different types of applications, such as Earth observation, telecommunications, science and technology/education.

Readying Ariane 5’s three-satellite payload
For Arianespace’s initial Ariane 5 mission following the resumption of operational activity at the Spaceport, its heavy-lift launcher will carry three payloads to geostationary transfer orbit: the Galaxy 30 and BSAT-4b telecommunications satellites, along with a Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV).

Riding in Ariane 5’s upper payload position will be Galaxy 30, produced by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS). This is the first spacecraft built under Intelsat’s North American satellite fleet replacement program and highlights the operator’s continued focus on C-band communication technologies.

To be deployed as a Galaxy 30 “piggyback” payload is Northrop Grumman’s second Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-2) – a servicing spacecraft that docks with an existing satellite in orbit to provide life-prolonging propulsion and attitude control. After deployment by Ariane 5, MEV-2 will service the Intelsat 10-02 satellite, which was launched in 2004.

Flight VA253’s other passenger on Ariane 5 – BSAT-4b – was built by Maxar Technologies for Japan’s Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation (B-SAT) as a back-up to BSAT-4a, launched by Arianespace in 2017. BSAT-4b uses Maxar Technologies’ 1300 Class platform and carries Ku-band transponders.


DARPA’s Smallsat Flights to Start

In partnership with the U.S. Space Force (USSF) and Space Development Agency (SDA), DARPA’s Blackjack program is targeting flights to LEO later this year and 2021.

Using a series of small, risk reduction satellites, the program aims to demonstrate advanced technology for satellite constellation autonomy and space mesh networks. Blackjack seeks to develop and validate critical elements of global high-speed autonomous networks in LEO, proving a capability that could provide the Department of Defense (DoD) with highly connected, resilient, and persistent overhead coverage.

The upcoming demonstration flights are all planned as rideshares, catching a ride to LEO on a launch with other missions. The first demonstration, Mandrake 1, is a smallsat that will carry supercomputer processing chips. Mandrake 2 is a pair of smallsats that will carry optical inter-satellite links for broadband data. These could form the basis of future optically meshed computer networks in LEO.

The program also is targeting a risk reduction payload called Wildcard, a software-defined radio (SDR) that will experiment with links from LEO to tactical radios. A data fusion experiment with the ability to host advanced third party algorithms, known as massless payloads, is intended for an upcoming Loft Orbital mission.

Blackjack aims to demonstrate sensors that are low in size, weight, and power, and that can be mass produced to fit on many different buses from many different providers, for less than $2 million per payload.

The agency is evaluating buses from Airbus, Blue Canyon Technologies and Telesat, all of which have progressed through preliminary design review. The final selection of buses will happen in 2020. The program recently completed preliminary design review for Pit Boss, selecting SEAKR as the primary performer for the on-orbit autonomy system. The agency also awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin as the satellite integrator.

Several sensor payloads are under consideration for the Blackjack demonstration sub-constellation, including overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) from Collins Aerospace and Raytheon; radio frequency systems from Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, Trident, and Systems & Technology Research; position, navigation, and timing from Northrop Grumman; optical inter-satellite links from SA Photonics; and electro-optical/infrared from L3Harris. The program also recently completed a Small Business Innovation Research contract with Augustus Aerospace to work on an Army Space and Missile Defense Command-related payload.

Over the next few months, the program will run simulations to test payloads in virtual constellations of all types of missions. The goal is to show interoperability between the commoditized buses and the various payloads being considered.

Paul “Rusty” Thomas, the program manager for Blackjack’s , said it is important that the agency gets the design right. DARPA focused first on buses and payloads, then the autonomous mission management system, which is called Pit Boss. Integration of the first two military payloads should start next summer, with launch via rideshare in late 2021, followed by the remainder of the Blackjack demonstration sub-constellation in 2022. The organization needs to show the constellations can move the right amount of data and support the data fusion and command and control wanted from Pit Boss. From there, DARPA will start building the actual hardware. By late next spring, the hardware will be in-hand and then next summer will be spent focused on satellite-level qualification for launch readiness in late 2021.