SpaceX has launched over 50 European small satellites in a record breaking launch on Sunday.
ExoLaunch in Germany coordinated the 30 satellites in a range of launchers, including one that was used for the first time aboard the Transporter 1 payload. D-Orbit in Italy co-ordinated a further 22.
The PIXL-1 mission from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) used a 400g laser relay cubesat called CubeLCT developed by DLR Institute of Communications and Navigation in close cooperation with Tesat-Spacecom (TESAT) in Backnang. The satellite. launched by ExoLaunch, was built and integrated by Danish company GomSpace. CubeLCT is a laser relay terminal that measures 9.5 x 9.5 x 3.25 cm and provides a data rate up to 100Mbit/s for quantum key distribution (QKD) technology in future missions.
“CubeLCT is a creative architecture, which combines optics and electronics in an ultra-compact terminal, which is furthermore designed for series production” said Prof. Christoph Günther, Institute’s Director of the DLR Institute of Communications and Navigation. Christoph Günther further said: “Our aim is to push the boundaries of the feasible and to be the first ones in demonstrating game-changing technologies. We are happy to launch CubeLCT into orbit on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 using cutting-edge deployment solutions by Exolaunch.”
Exolaunch used its flexible multi-port adapter EXOport for the first time with separation systems and sequencers to ensure precise deployment of small satellites into their target orbit.
“Through our partnership with SpaceX, Exolaunch has become the bridge for multiple European smallsat developers and others from around the world interested to launch on Falcon 9,” said Jeanne Medvedeva, Vice President of Launch Services at Exolaunch. “As the SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program takes off and expands, more organizations will have the opportunity to launch their satellites into orbit though our tailored, flight-proven, and cost-effective launch and deployment solutions.”
Another of the CubeSats in the ExoLauch deployment was SOMP2b, developed by the Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden). This is an educational and hands-on project also funded by DLR. This was designed as a 2U cubesat to examine new nanomaterials under the extreme conditions of space, to test systems for converting solar heat into electrical current and to precisely measure the residual atmosphere around the satellite. It is intended to operate scientific payloads and to demonstrate the functionality of a very highly integrated satellite design.