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The SpaceX Transporter 4 mission reveals the current state of space technology

Welcome to the new edition of the smallsat weekly newsletter from Precious Payload! At the end of 2020, we started to collect the small satellite news for our team to stay up-to-date but decided to share our findings and insights with everyone interested in the smallsat industry.

We’re happy to have you on board!

Precious Payload Weekly Smallsat News: March 29 – April 3

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Source: SpaceX

Launch Updates

Rocket Lab’s Electron launcher carried two twin optical imaging satellites built by Seattle-based LeoStella for the BlackSky mission from New Zealand through US’s Spaceflight. 

Virgin Orbit plans on four to six launches in 2022 for missile defense and hypersonics and shows regard for using the LauncherOne system as a boost stage for the hypersonic vehicles.

Looking for a launch?

Check out our comprehensive launch schedule for smallsats.



The SpaceX Transporter 4 mission—which was launched last week—reveals the current state of space technology. A cursory glance at the payload list gives you an idea of what’s going on in the industry. The launch features some of the most advanced “space tug” technologies, the second-leg transportation in space. These exciting developments are accompanied by companies that provide connectivity between satellites and ordinary mobile phones, hyperspectral imaging satellites, and various Earth Observation satellites. All in all, a fascinating read about the modern small satellite market.



Polish space company SatRevolution plans to develop a 6U satellite platform. It also aims to run a nanosatellite factory in Australia for the Australian Space Manufacturing Network with its acquired $52M funding from the Australian government. [Source]

Indian startup Pixxel raises $25M in a funding round led by Toronto-based Radical Ventures for hyperspectral imaging constellation. The company launched one satellite, named Shakuntala or Pixxel TD-2, aboard Falcon 9 for SpaceX’s Transporter-4 rideshare mission. [Source

Japanese startup Synspective has raised $100M to accelerate its mass production and develop a constellation of 30 SAR satellites by 2026. [Source]

Scottish company Alba Orbital successfully established a connection with Unicorn-2D. This picosat constellation monitors artificial light at night, after its launch in January 2022, aboard Falcon 9. [Source]

US company Steelhead Composites gets approval for their low-cost LEO satellite propulsion tanks that do not create debris upon atmospheric re-entry. [Source

Boeing set up the world’s largest satellite factory in El Segundo to be powered by its subsidiary, Millennium Space Systems, to 3D print satellite buses faster and is expected to be fully operational by late 2022. [Source]

DARPA has selected eight teams to pioneer novel ways of designing and manufacturing large structures on orbit. [Source

Following environmental and human health implications, the UN banned using mercury as a satellite propellant by 2025. Canada and Switzerland take it up seriously with the availability of mercury-free alternatives in the market. [Source]

NASA’s HelioSwarm science mission aimed at studying solar wind and space plasma turbulence plans to deploy eight microsatellites by Colorado-based Blue Canyon Technologies for launch in 2028. [Source]

NASA selects eight cubesat missions for its CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) to be deployed from the ISS in the 2023-2026 timeframe:

  • a cubesat monitoring star-planet activity and demonstration of a wide field infrared laser communication terminal for smallsats by Arizona State University; 
  • ACMES mission (The Active Cooling for Multispectral Earth Sensors) 
  • Two spacecraft by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will study solar corona at the resolution required to determine the existence of hypothesized heat-release bands using the Virtual Super-Resolution Optics with Reconfigurable Swarms (VISORS) formation. 
  • ARCSTONE mission that will do lunar spectral reflectance measurements by NASA Langley Research Center-California 
  • AMDROHPSat (Additively Manufactured Deployable Radiator with Oscillating Heat Pipes) by Polytechnic State University
  • SWARM-EX mission (The Space Weather Atmospheric Reconfigurable Multiscale Experiment) developing by Olin College
  • a 3U3 mission by University of New Hampshire to measure precipitating electrons and UV emissions in the auroral and cusp regions of Earth
  • DORA mission (The Deployable Optical Receiver Aperture) by Arizona State University [Source]


Check out Precious Payload Weekly Smallsat News: March 21 – 28