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Precious Payload helps teams ship satellites to space.

Kepler validates the technology, Astra will supply the thrusters, and Exotrail wants to debut its SpaceVan in 2023

Precious Payload Weekly Smallsat News: April 11 – April 17


We create weekly smallsat industry news collections to support your business intelligence… and curiosity!



Canadian startup Kepler Communications successfully tested inter-satellite links on two of the four satellites launched this year by SpaceX. The company will sell the terminals to other satellite companies so they too can use Kepler’s data-relay constellation, which it plans to deploy next year. Earlier Kepler secured spectrum rights via a German regulator that will allow launching nearly 115,000 satellites using its terminals.


Launch Updates

Norwegian-based KSAT will help Australia’s Gilmour Space Technologies launch their orbital launch vehicle, Eris, which can deliver up to 1000 kg to LEO. The first launch is expected later this year.

France-based Exotrail puts forth its debut Orbital Transfer Vehicle, SpaceVan, offering a payload capacity of up to 400 kg, which will launch onboard a Falcon 9 rideshare mission in October 2023.

US-based TransAstra and Finland-based ReOrbit signed contracts where the latter’s client satellites will be delivered to LEO, MEO, GEO, and Cislunar orbits by TransAstra’s ‘Worker Bee’ OTV.


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US-based Astra Space announced a contract to provide engines for Seattle-based LeoStella’s satellites. [Source]

San Francisco-based startup Astranis is to enhance the propulsion system of 4 smallsats, thereby increasing their operational lives by one extra year. The four-satellite payload will be on SpaceX’s Falcon 9, 2023 mission. [Source]

Astranis also plans to utilize its small GEO satellite services for military customers. [Source

Finland will launch its first science satellite, Foresail-1, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in the summer of 2022 with the German launch service provider ExoLaunch. The smallsat will carry a particle telescope to study the near-Earth radiation environment and a plasma brake, which will bring the satellite out of orbit. [Source]

NASA’s CAPSTONE cubesat mission which US’s Advanced Space operates, is all set for launch by the 3rd of May into lunar orbit aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from New Zealand and will help better understand operations in the near-rectilinear halo orbit. [Source]

The U.S. Space Force is looking at ways to refuel satellites by 2025 through its experiment Tetra-5. [Source]

Rocket Lab starts construction of a new production complex in Virginia for its next Neutron reusable launch vehicle that will be able to deliver both constellation and large single spacecraft missions. [Source]

Indian start-up Bellatrix Aerospace successfully tested India’s first high-performance green satellite propulsion system with a green monopropellant over the hydrazine-based toxic emitting systems. [Source]

Colorado-based Orbit Fab and Tokyo-based Astroscale signed an agreement to refuel Astroscale’s fleet of LEXI Servicers satellites, which will be launched in 2026, with Orbit Fab’s GEO fuel shuttle carrying Xenon propellant. Orbit Fab plans to launch the first two fuel shuttles in 2023. [Source]

American aerospace and defense company Moog opens up a new integrated space vehicles production facility in Colorado and plans to integrate nine space vehicles this year. [Source

And the last thing we wanted to say—yesterday we’ve sent the newsletter where we shared one more piece of news, published here, on the North Dakota’s IVO Ltd. that announced that it has built an electric IVO Quantum Drive thruster that runs entirely on electricity and zero fuel and has worked with Virginia’s E-Labs to validate the thruster for its efficiency and capabilities. 


We are following the announcement from North Dakota’s IVO Ltd. regarding their IVO Quantum Drive thruster’s completion of thermal vacuum testing that we shared yesterday in our email newsletter with caution. Our readers drew our attention to it — It could be far-fetched or could be something revolutionary.

Quantized inertia (QI) is an alternative theory of inertia, a property of matter that describes an object’s resistance to acceleration. QI was first proposed by University of Plymouth physicist Mike McCulloch in 2007, but it is still considered a fringe theory by many physicists today as it seems to violate Newton’s third law of motion, special relativity, and general relativity.

It’s a radical new concept and looks like that IVO is the only company in the world working on it right now. IVO doesn’t share many details about how their thruster work so there’s not much we can say about it. We are looking forward to seeing if the thruster could be qualified in orbit (a cubesat is the perfect platform for this job). 


Check out Precious Payload Weekly Smallsat News: April 4 – April 10