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 multi-mission smallsats to operate in Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO).
The Phase A/B1 study will advance the design of Skimsat demonstrator, a VLEO multi-mission (<300 km.) satellite that aims to significantly reduce the cost of EO while 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 smallsats 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.