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RocketLab plans fly There and Back Again, and Project Kuiper signs contracts for 83 launches

The smallsat industry newsletter is a weekly collection of recent satellite news curated by the Precious Payload team. We are happy to share our findings and insights with you, our reader.

Precious Payload Weekly Smallsat News: April 4 – April 10

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Launch Updates

Rocket Lab wants to capture an Electron rocket with a helicopter after it completes ‘There and Back Again’ mission to be launched later in April. A successful attempt will make Electron the first reusable orbital small launch vehicle. The mission will carry 34 payloads from Alba Orbital, Astrix Astronautics, Aurora Propulsion Technologies, E-Space, Unseenlabs, and Swarm Technologies via Spaceflight Inc. 

California’s Momentus signed a multiple launch agreement with SpaceX that secures launch opportunities with the Transporter-6, Transporter-7, Transporter-8, and Transporter-9 missions.


Precious Payload launches the embedded tool, Launch.ctrl, for Madrid-based ienai SPACE, allowing teams to leverage verified data and see actual, manifested launches while working within the software created by IENAI SPACE to obtain the best space mobility possible for their needs. [Source]


Funding News

Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) has secured a £22M contract for a 150 kg ‘Carbonite+’ satellite. [Source]

Japanese startup ArkEdge Space raises $18.7M to continue their technology development for Earth-to-moon communications and build a constellation of seven 6U nanosats by 2025. [Source]



US’s Aerospace Corp. will make a tech demo of its 12U smallsat carrying 19 payloads to LEO aboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket in the fall of 2022. [Source

California’s Astranis Space Technologies looks forward to launching four MicroGEO satellites with SpaceX onboard Falcon 9 in 2023. [Source]

Australian Gilmour Space Technologies will build the first 100kg smallsat of the HyperSight 60 hyperspectral constellation of LatConnect 60 and launch it aboard its Eris rocket from Bowen Orbital Spaceport in Australia in Q4 2024. [Source]

Amazon signed launch service contracts with three commercial launch companies, Arianespace, Blue Origin, and ULA (United Launch Alliance), for 83 launches altogether over five years for its Project Kuiper constellation of 3236 satellites [Source]. It also selected the Swiss-based Beyond Gravity for developing the satellite dispensers. [Source]

  1. Arianespace: 18 Ariane-6 launches for Amazon’s Project Kuiper in the next three years. 
  2. Blue Origin: 12 launches of New Glenn, with options for up to 15 additional ones. 
  3. United Launch Alliance: 38 launches of a ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket.

Colorado-based Orbit Fab and Germany-based Neutron Star Systems signed an agreement to combine NSS propellant-agnostic electric propulsion technology with Orbit Fab’s refueling solutions to increase the range of refuellable green propellants in satellites. [Source]

Canadian satellite communications company Telesat faces supply chain issues reducing the number of satellites ordered for its Lightspeed broadband constellation and adjusting its design to cut costs. [Source]

Destruction of the Ukrainian Antonov aircraft that was to carry the GEO spacecraft delays satellite projects of SES, Airbus, and Viasat, forcing US-built commercial GEOs to travel by trucks and the French Guiana-bound satellites by sea. [Source

NASA will launch a payload via SpinLaunch’s Suborbital Accelerator Launch System later this year to test flight and analyze data for future commercial launch options. [Source]

Tokyo-based startup Astroscale plans to resume its End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) after resolving the current anomalies it is facing and will then capture satellites that become debris in LEO. [Source]

Lockheed Martin published a Mission Augmentation Port (MAP) interface standard that provides a mechanical interface design for docking spacecraft to one another and enables new mission capabilities to a platform after launch. [Source]

York Space System plans to build one more satellite manufacturing facility in Denver to increase its production capacity. [Source]

Southwest Research Institute in Texas sets up a new Space System Integration Facility that includes cleanrooms, a thermal vacuum chamber, a shielded electromagnetic interference enclosure, and a high-decibel acoustic test chamber. [Source]


Check out Precious Payload Weekly Smallsat News: March 29 – April 3