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ESA programme unleashes next generation space as a service from in-space missions

(14 January 2020 - In-Space) In-Space Missions Limited (In-Space) and ESA have signed a Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme worth €10M to develop the Faraday 2nd generation capabilities to become a Service Mission Provider (SMP) and fly two microsatellite validation missions in low Earth orbit.

The PPP programme is co-funded under the ESA ARTES Pioneer programme, and is part of the Partners Projects.

In-Space has had commercial success with the Faraday 1st Generation (F1G) service which has attracted large space primes, start-ups and academia as customers. This turnkey service enables multiple 3rd party payloads to ‘rideshare’ on a single satellite platform and take advantage of the economies provided by sharing the infrastructure. As satellite design, build, regulatory, launch and operations costs are shared across the customers, the typical price of flying with Faraday is around a third of the cost of buying a stand-alone satellite. The first Faraday 1st Generation satellite, incorporating seven distinct customers on a 6U cubesat, is now built and awaiting launch.

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Faraday-01 satellite 3D model (courtesy: In-Space)

The ESA Pioneer programme for Faraday 2nd Generation will significantly improve on F1G through an enhanced user-service development and the design and test of a new satellite platform, CubeScale, that enables dramatic performance improvements and cost reductions.

The service design and CubeScale approach will enable In-Space to offer flights on the Faraday service to low Earth orbit (including launch, regulatory and six months of operations) at market disrupting prices. With a proposed flight every 3 to 6 months from 2022, the service will provide a ‘responsive space’ solution for a number of customers needing rapid in space technology and service validation.

The CubeScale platform takes the avionics or ‘brains’ of a low-cost cubesat and incorporates a scalable thermo-mechanical, power and precision AOCS solutions to deliver a high performance, low cost microsatellite platform with a payload carrying capability up to 80kg. The novel flexible hardware and software interface design enables payload providers to contract with In-Space as late as 3 months prior to launch. CubeScale is designed to be agnostic to the avionics solution and as such can incorporate the best in class of Europe’s cubesat capabilities. While the ESA Pioneer validation missions will take place in low Earth orbit, the CubeScale architecture is readily extendable to medium Earth orbit, geostationary orbit and beyond.

”Faraday has proven to be a game-changer for our customers to date and this ESA Artes Pioneer programme will give Europe a World beating capability in the rapid demonstration and early roll-out of new and advanced technologies, systems, services and applications. The CubeScale design allows us to fly large payloads alongside cubesat sized payloads at a transformational price and performance not currently available to small missions." Doug Liddle, CEO of In-Space

While In-Space is leading the service development and delivery, the CubeScale platform is being developed by a world-class team of British companies. Magna Parva Ltd is taking the lead on the novel flexible structure and extremely low shock launch adaptor. Bright Ascension Ltd will drive on the space and ground software interfaces and design tools. In-Space will provide systems leadership to the CubeScale team and develop the AOCS solution. Tony Holt, In-Space CTO, said “this is a fantastic opportunity to bring together three great British SMEs with the goal of enabling many more organisations to demonstrate, prove and start to deliver new space based services.“

”With this project, In-Space aims to further stretch its capabilities as a Space Mission Provider. In-Space will build and perform a flight demonstration with innovative satellite based on its novel and modular platform. A great achievement by the ESA and In-Space led team that kicked off this project." Khalil Kably, ESA Pioneer Programme Manager.

Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth at the UK Space Agency, said: “We have just committed £250 million of funding to ESA’s ARTES programme to support the research and development of innovative programmes like this.

“The success of the In-Space team and their partners is yet another example of why our leading role in ARTES is vital to our national ambition to support the growth of the UK space sector.”

“The first flight of the 2nd generation service is due to take place in early 2022 with the second following shortly afterwards”, said In-Space’s Delivery Director, Dr Kathryn O’Donnell. “We’ll be issuing a call for payloads in early 2020, so come fly with us.”

In-Space Missions Limited

In-Space Missions (UK) brings together experience and innovation to create space businesses through collaboration and in-orbit demonstration. It develops new space and ‘newspace’ missions and provides consultancy and procurement support to the space sector. In-Space operates globally and has collaborated with or supported over 40 newspace, traditional space, institutional, financial, academic and government organisations since its inception in 2015. In-Space provides Space as a Service capability (Faraday-1, launch Q1 2020), is developing an AR/VR immersive real-time video from space service (launch late 2020), and has developed a number of platform technology products.

European Space Agency

ESA Artes Pioneer programme is one of the Partners Projects that is aimed at de-risking partners investments answering to market needs. Pioneer supports the emergence of commercial European entities with the ability to offer fast and affordable access to space to public and private customers in the field of satellite telecommunications. This programme creates new opportunities for both established and new players in the fast-changing and competitive satcom market. Faraday2G, the fifth Pioneer project, confirms the strong support of ESA Member States and industry to this initiative.

UK Space Agency

The UK Space Agency leads the UK’s efforts to explore and benefit from space, with responsibility for all strategic decisions on the UK civil space programme. It ensures Government investments in space science and technology deliver significant value to the UK economy and people’s lives. As set out in the Industrial Strategy, the UK Space Agency works with industry to develop new technologies, infrastructure and services, and to ensure the UK thrives in the commercial space age.

The UK Space Agency:

  • Supports the work of the UK space sector at home and abroad, maximising its benefit to the UK’s growing economy
  • Invests in science and exploration to increase our understanding of the universe and deliver practical benefits such as new technologies to life on Earth.
  • Inspires the next generation of UK scientists and engineers.
  • Provides a safe and supportive regulatory environment for the launch and operation of UK spacecraft, launch operators and UK spaceports.
  • Promotes global co-operation in space, through the UK’s membership of the European Space Agency and international partnerships.

The UK Space Agency is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.