Satellite industry in April (Part 2)

Origin Space signs contract with satellite manufacturer for optical telescope development

Origin Space, a start-up company from Shenzhen, China, has announced that it has signed a contract with DFH Satellite to develop an optical space telescope.

Origin Space was established in 2017 with the aim of mining mineral resources from asteroids orbiting the earth. Since then, it has raised $ 7 million in angel rounds from Chinese venture capital firms Matrix Partners China and Linear Venture. The company collaborates with universities and research institutes in Japan.

The employees background varies widely. CEO and co-founder Meng Su was an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong after graduating in astronomy at Peking University, Harvard University and MIT. COO and co-founder Tianhong Yu is a data scientist who founded a game company.

DFH Satellite operates under the umbrella of China Aeronautics and Technology Group (CASC), which conducts R&D in satellites, and provides launch services for small satellites.

The details of the space telescope and the contract have not been disclosed. The launch is scheduled for 2021.

In the past, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, which were also well known in the field of space mineral resource development, were acquired by larger companies. It will be challenging for Origin Space Expectations to remain independent. Further the legal framework for the use of space resources has not been developed in China, an issue that may become a real obstacle to the viability of the venture.  

Swarm Technologies working on building an IoT communication network signs a contract with Momentus

On April 22, Momentus, a space venture developing new propulsion systems, announced a launch service contract with Swarm Technologies

The contract encompasses arrangements for rideshare of 12 SpaceBee satellites from Swarm Technologies scheduled to be launched on Falcon 9 of SpaceX in 2020, and additional launches of SpaceBee satellites in 2021 and 2022.

Momentus has also signed a launch contract with Odysseus Space , a Taiwanese company earlier this month.

While orbits cannot be freely chosen by launching through a joint launch with a large rocket,  it can reduce costs. Launching with a small rocket with a free choice of orbit is substantially more expensive. Among these two options, propulsion equipment manufacturers such as Momentus are working on the development of a new orbit placement method that could allow for a more cost effective joint launch with a larger rocket and free orbit selection.

This demand for a third option will be driven by satellite companies building large communication constellations.

To offer global coverage for customers seeking to relay messages through the internet, Swarm satellites must be stationed in different orbital planes and spread out within those orbital planes as a “string of pearls”.

Swarm Technologies is a venture company working on satellite communication networks founded in 2017. The company currently has nine satellites and plans to build a constellation of 150 by 2021.

We will continue to observe Swarm Technologies, aiming to keep smart devices around the world connected at all times with a low bandwidth.

SpaceX succeeds in 7th Starlink mission

SpaceX reported that it successfully completed its seventh Starlink satellite launch mission on April 22nd.

During this mission, 60 Starlink satellites were put into orbit, bringing the total number of Starlink satellites operating in low earth orbit to 422.

SpaceX plans to launch a satellite communications network covering Canada and the northern United States later this year. The company plans to expand its service world wide by 2021, and it seems that it will need to launch 12,000 to 42,000 small satellites in total to complete the communication network coverage.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has revealed on Twitter that he plans to launch the beta version of Starlink within 3 months and the public version within half a year for high latitude areas.

With each launch of the Starlink satellite, there is debate about the impact of small communication satellites on the landscape of the starry sky and scientific research. This time, Elon Musk addressed the measures that the company is taking to deal with these issues.

It appears that the Starlink satellites shine brightly due to the angle of the solar panels mounted on them. Therefore, from the ninth Starlink satellite launch mission, all satellites will be equipped with a device blocking the reflection.