NASA Selects Smallsat Technology Projects for SBIR Funding

Credit: NASA

NASA has selected nine small satellite technology projects for funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Each contract is worth up to $750,000 over two years.

The proposals include:

Antara Teknik, LLC
Granite Bay, CA
Efficient and Secure Network and Application Communications for Small Spacecraft

Busek Company, Inc.
Natick, MA
Milliarcsecond Small Spacecraft Attitude Control System

CU Aerospace, LLC
Champaign, IL
Fiber-fed Advanced Pulsed Plasma Thruster (FPPT)

Froberg Aerospace, LLC
Rolla, MO
Multi-Mode Micropropulsion

Gener8, Inc.
Sunnyvale, CA
Integrated Waveguide Optical Gyroscope

Innoflight, Inc.
San Diego, CA
Compact Multi-Protocol Modem

Tethers Unlimited, Inc.
Bothell, WA

Valley Tech Systems, Inc.
Folsom, CA
Affordable Small Satellite Launch Vehicle Reaction Control System

Vector Launch Inc.
Tucson, AZ
Flight Demonstration of a Micropump-based Stage Pressurization System

Summaries of the proposals follow.


Vector Selected for NASA SBIR Award

NASA has selected Vector Launch company for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award to demonstrate a micropump-based stage pressurization system. The two-year contract is worth up to $750,000.

“Electrically-driven micropumps drive a small portion of each propellant over a novel 3D-printed heat exchanger at the engine to pressurize the tanks. Excess flow can be diverted to the engine as needed,” the company said in its proposal.


Vector to Conduct Dedicated Launch of Alba Orbital PocketQube Satellites on First Orbital Attempt

TUCSON, Ariz., March 8, 2018 (Vector PR) — Vector, a nanosatellite launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware, today announced it will conduct a dedicated launch of two PocketQube satellites using an Alba Orbital deployer (AlbaPOD) on the Vector-R launch vehicle later this year from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA) in Kodiak.

Alba Orbital, a manufacturer of PocketQube satellites, will launch the Unicorn-2a satellite platform and a satellite developed by Delft University of Technology, Delfi-PQ1. The launch itself marks a historic moment for both Vector and Alba Orbital as its first orbital launch attempt and the world’s first PocketQube dedicated launch.


DARPA Requests Quarter Billion for Space Development Programs

Artist’s conception of Boeing’s Experimental Spaceplane One (XS-1). (Credit: Boeing)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

DARPA has requested $254.67 million to fund a variety of space programs for FY 2019. The total includes funds for work on an experimental space plane, a responsive launch competition, and robotic on-orbit servicing of satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO).


Tethers Unlimited’s MakerSat Would Allow Small Satellites to Grow on Orbit

Tethers Unlimited has been selected to receive up to $750,000 in NASA funding to demonstration technology that would allow small satellites to grow after they are launched into orbit.

The company’s MakerSat project was one of 128 proposals selected by NASA for phase II funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The contracts last two years.


Stratolaunch’s New Launch Payload: A Vehicle the Size of the Space Shuttle

Straolaunch aircraft on the Mojave runway. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The Washington Post has a story about Stratolaunch that contains this interesting piece of news from backer Paul Allen and CEO Jean Floyd.

But Allen has even bigger ambitions for Stratolaunch and is considering pairing it with a new space shuttle that’s known inside the company as Black Ice….

“I would love to see us have a full reusable system and have weekly, if not more often, airport-style, repeatable operations going,” Allen said in an interview in his Seattle office.


BlackSky Completes 1st Next-Gen Earth Imaging Smallsat

Global-1 satellite (Credit: Spaceflight Industries)

Readies for launch and commercial availability

SEATTLE, March 6, 2018 (Spaceflight Industries PR)BlackSky, the geospatial intelligence service of Spaceflight Industries, today announced the first of its next generation of small Earth observation satellites is complete, qualified, and awaiting launch. This spacecraft, called Global-1, is the first of four smallsats that are scheduled to launch in in the next year on both US and foreign launch vehicles.


Camden County Signs MOU with ABL Space Systems

WOODBINE, GEORGIA, (Camden County PR) – Steve Howard, Camden County Administrator and Spaceport Camden Project lead announced today that ABL Space Systems has signed a memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) with Camden County officials to explore future launch operations at Spaceport Camden. The MOU outlines how ABL Space Systems will work with Spaceport Camden to test, manufacture, assemble, and launch orbital vehicles in Camden County. The MOU is a precursor to a larger definitive agreement to be negotiated and signed no later than July 31, 2019.


Take a Look at this Smallsat Booster in Alameda

The rocket in the picture is being developed by Astra Space, Inc., which was formerly known as Ventions, before the company reincorporated under its present name in September 2016, according to documents on file with the City of Alameda.

Astra Space moved into Building 397 in the Alameda Point Enterprise Zone under a license from the city on Nov. 22, 2016. In January 2017, the City Council approved a two-year lease with three one-year renewal options on Jan. 3, 2017. The base rent began at $12,134.50 per month.

“Astra Space designs, tests, manufactures, and operates next-generation launch services that will enable a new generation of global communications, earth observation, precision weather monitoring, navigation, and surveillance capabilities,” according to a synopsis prepared for the council.

The company started with about 25 employees in the building with plans to grow to as many as 100 employees within five years, according to city documents.

The booster burns kerosene and liquid oxygen, the records state.

Vector & Open Cosmos Announce Five Launch Deal

Flight test of P-19H engineering model of the Vector-R launch vehicle from Friends of Amateur Rocketry site in California. (Credit: Vector Space Systems)

TUCSON, Ariz., Feb. 14, 2018 (Vector PR) — Vector, a nanosatellite launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware and Open Cosmos, a space mission provider, today announced an agreement to reserve five orbital launches between 2019 and 2023 on the Vector-R launch vehicle. The announcement comes in advance of Vector’s first orbital launch in July.


Akash Systems Raises $3.1 Million to Develop Next Generation Smallsats

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 30, 2018 Akash Systems, Inc., focused on resolving the explosive growth of data consumption by enabling smarter and lighter satellite systems, announced today it has raised $3.1 million and closed its seed round funding. Led by Khosla Ventures, the seed round also included Social Capital, Data Collective, Ruvento Ventures, Sriram Krishnan, and Backstage Capital. The funding will allow Akash to further its mission of reimagining tomorrow’s communication systems by developing the next generation of small satellites and the components that power them.


PLD Space Receives ESA Contract for ARION 2 Launcher Study

ARION 2 booster (Credit: PLD Space)

ELCHE, Spain (PLD Space PR) — The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded the project “Study on Launch Service Making Use of a Microlauncher” to the Spanish company PLD Space.

The microlauncher study, a part of the ESA’s Future Launcher Preparatory Programme, will refine the definition of the European small satellite launcher project proposed by PLD Space, named ARION 2.


PLD Space Receives $2.4 Million for Smallsat Launcher

ARION 1 & 2 technology demonstration. (Credit: PLD Space)

PLD Space of Spain has received nearly 2 million euros ($2.4 million) from the European Commission to continue development of its reusable ARION 1 and ARION 2 launch vehicles.

ARION 1 is a suborbital booster that PLD Space plans to begin launching later this year.  The company said the rocket will validate 70% of the technologies required for ARION 2, which will place payloads weighing as much as 150 kg (331 lbs) into low Earth orbit.


Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.


India & Europe Eye Smallsat Launchers

PSLV C38 mission launches (Credit: ISRO)

Officials in India and Europe are eying a greater share of the emerging small satellite market with light versions of the PSLV and Vega C boosters, respectively.