Aerospacelab to build debris-tracking satellite for Vyoma

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun11,2024

TAMPA, Fla. — German startup Vyoma has picked six-year-old Belgian venture Aerospacelab to build a second small satellite for its proposed space debris-monitoring constellation.

The 60-kilogram Flamingo 2 spacecraft will be ready for a launch to low Earth orbit from the end of 2025, the four-year-old space situational awareness (SSA) venture announced June 13, where it would help track debris in LEO and geostationary orbit.

Vyoma did not disclose launch details.

The mission would follow a launch slated for February of a small satellite Vyoma ordered from EnduroSat, an eight-year-old Bulgarian cubesat specialist, called Flamingo 1 with an undisclosed incumbent launch provider. Vyoma told SpaceNews it has yet to proceed with plans for a second satellite with EnduroSat.

“Overall, our growing surveillance constellation will foster a safer and more secure space environment,” Vyoma chief program officer Luisa Buinhas said, “empowering intelligence officers and operators to make effective operational decisions.” 

Part of a planned 12-satellite constellation, Vyoma said its first two Flamingos would have optical telescopes to track and catalog objects as small as 10 centimeters passively.

“With the subsequent satellites, we will be able to track and catalog objects as small as a few cm,” a Vyoma spokesperson Arti Dhole said.

These observations would supplement the SSA data Vyoma provides European defense customers from third-party networks of ground-based sensors, which can observe LEO objects down to around six centimeters via dedicated tracking but only under clear atmospheric conditions.

Vyoma said the Aerospacelab satellite would improve the frequency of the constellation’s observations, achieving a median latency of three hours for the majority of resident space objects.

Aerospacelab ramp up

The contract marks the second commercial customer for Aerospacelab’s Versatile Satellite Platform-50 (VSP-50) platform, following a recent order from California-based navigation constellation developer Xona Space Systems for a launch next year.

Aerospacelab will provide manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing services for Vyoma, including payload and launch integration and early-orbit phase commissioning.

Benoit Deper, Aerospacelab’s founder and CEO, said the satellite would be built in its Monnet Center facility near Brussels, which is designed to produce 24 spacecraft annually. 

In addition to plans for a manufacturing facility in the United States, Aerospacelab seeks to set up a “megafactory” in Belgium large enough to churn out 500 satellites annually.

Aerospacelab also recently bought a Belgian spacecraft optics specialist called AMOS, but Deper said the satellite for Vyoma would not draw from this acquisition.

Instead, he said the satellite would leverage the manufacturer’s VSP-150 platform, including the optical payloads being used to provide remote sensing services to customers such as the European Space Agency and the Swiss Ministry of Defense.

Aerospacelab is currently operating six VSP-150 satellites that are roughly 150 kilograms each.

“VSP-50 leverages VSP-150 heritage by utilizing the same subsystems and avionics architecture,” Deper said.

“The thermo-mechanical envelope differs, and VSP-50 enables hosting payloads facing any direction.”

For Vyoma, the optical payload is facing out to space instead of points on the ground for an Earth observation mission.

Free launches

Vyoma won two free launch slots from a competition Germany’s space agency ran last year to promote domestic businesses but has not detailed plans for them.

One of the launches is with Rocket Factory Augsburg’s three-stage, 30-meter-tall RFA One rocket. 

RFA spokesperson Jonas Kellner said the small rocket developer is currently working toward an inaugural flight scheduled in August from the United Kingdom.

Vyoma has not announced details for a German rocket it plans to use before the end of 2026 for its second free launch slot.

The startup said in October it had secured an additional five million euros ($5.4 million) in capital from a dedicated space fund backed by the European Investment Fund, owned by the European Investment Bank and the European Union, bringing total funding to date to more than 16 million euros.

This article was updated June 14 to correct Vyoma’s launch plan with comments from the company.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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