In the past, space travel was the exclusive preserve of governments and large space agencies. That has changed in recent years with the increasing commercialization of space. However, the lack of a low-cost and standardized infrastructure in space keeps entry barriers high and makes also small satellite missions expensive. While small rockets, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) payloads and complete end-to-end mission operation service offers are already kicking off to make space increasingly accessible for space newcomers, the most costly and critical factor, the satellite itself, is still left behind.
A German start-up wants to lower these entry barriers by offering a multipurpose satellite platform for dedicated missions of small payloads from low-Earth to lunar orbits. By using an “off the shelf”-solution for commercial or scientific space missions, the launch interval can be shortened from 24 to 3 months, launch and opportunity costs can be reduced, launch and maintenance of microsatellite constellations is facilitated, secondary payload constraints are avoided.
The free-flying platform (150kg | 1.2m³) can, alternatively to dedicated payload missions, act as an electrical low-thrust kickstage to also carry and deploy smaller satellites in higher orbits than it was previously affordable with rockets only. The platform is also capable to offer data relay services for brought or already-there satellites at the target environment, even at the Moon. Operators of SmallSats can thus rely on capable electric propulsion as an addition to small rockets and can therefore choose from a wider set of launch solutions, that only become viable with the platform described. In the most disrupting mission type it can be launched into Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) to reach the Moon within a year, without the need for a moon-capable rocket.
The platform aims at cost efficiency through standardization and the combination of already available components rather than costly tailor-made development. Together with the electric propulsion system it provides a universal and nimble infrastructure for small satellite missions, being especially advantageous compared to custom solutions in the lunar range.
Its payload compartment (transportation envelope 32U | 50kg) offers generous volume and interfaces to accommodate dedicated payload(s) and satellites on the top payload deck using standardized, but customizable adapters. A flexible payload accommodation and interfacing concept allow for the integration of further instruments on a slot-based architecture (plug-and-play).
The platform has dimensions of 1x1x1.2m³ (folded solar arrays) and a wingspan of 5m. It has a mass of 85kg dry and 100kg wet, 150kg. The propulsion system has 2x 6mN Thrust, up to 4000s Isp and 14kg propellant.
Addressable mission environments include Low Earth Orbit (LEO), variable high GEO, cislunar and lunar orbits. Further iterations of the platform based on the original concept shall also be capable of interplanetary missions, e.g. to Venus, Mars and the inner asteroid belt for prospecting and complementing larger exploration missions.
The German Start-up seeks further possible partners such as satellite operators, defence institutions, commercial or scientific payload providers, space data providers (geographic, radiation, navigation, meteorological and communication data), space mission architects or others for technical cooperation agreements.
They should contribute to the further development of the satellite platform by being included in pilot space missions. The partners should engage in a regular exchange with the developers, give recommendations concerning technical optimisation potential and contribute to the further improvement of the invention until market maturity is reached.
Also sought are investors (venture capitalists or industrial players from Old Space as lead investors) for financial agreements for direct financial support.