Thales Alenia Space and QinetiQ to pave the way for small multimission satellites in VLEO

Source: Thales Alenia Space press release

Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), and QinetiQ have signed a study contract with the European Space Agency to pave the way for small multi-mission satellites to operate in Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO).

The Phase A/B1 study will advance the design of Skimsat demonstrator, a VLEO multi-mission (<300km) satellite that aims to significantly reduce the cost of Earth observation whilst increasing performance by operating at substantially lower altitudes. The highly modular, compact flexible satellite will capitalize on developments in high efficiency electrical propulsion to compensate for air drag.

The compact size of Skimsat will allow to be compatible with the launchers designed for small satellites with respect to dimensions, such as those currently being developed in the UK, to provide customers with substantially shorter lead times than traditional satellite launchers of similar capability.

The study is being led by Thales Alenia Space in the UK and QinetiQ Space team in Belgium and is funded under ESA’s Discovery Preparation and Technology Development (DPTD) activities. Payloads using the multi-mission Skimsat platform will be identified as part of the study for an In Orbit Demonstration to show applications in VLEO prior to the first commercial mission. This new initiative is fully included in the new space approach of Thales Alenia Space and reflects the company’s capability to address disruptive needs in partnership with smaller companies.

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