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Chapter Contents

Chapter Glossary

(COTS)Commercial-off-the-Shelf
(EELV)Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle
(ESPA)EELV Secondary Payload Adapter
(GEO)Geostationary Equatorial Orbit
(I&T)Integration and Test
(kg)Kilogram
(LEO)Low Earth Orbit
(MEO)Medium Earth Orbit
(MTBF)Mean Time Between Failures
(NASA)National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(SHF)Super High Frequency
(SmallSat)Small Satellite
(SPA)Secondary Payload Adapter
(STMD)Space Technology Mission Directorate
(UHF)Ultra High Frequency
(UK)United Kingdom
(Unk)Unknown
(USA)United States of America
(VLEO)Very Low Earth Orbit
(VHF)Very High Frequency
(W)Watts
(xGEO)Beyond Geostationary Equatorial Orbit

2.1 Introduction

The SmallSat market provides a variety of mission-enabling components. Along with a large variety of new and proven components, companies are now offering entire spacecraft bus solutions. Spacecraft bus refers to the side of the mission flight segment that provides essential services to the payload. This chapter addresses the state of the art in the small spacecraft bus offerings and provides the reader with a programmatic overview for small spacecraft mission development.

There are 2 distinct types of SmallSat market options in terms of complete spacecraft platforms. One option is not superior to the other and selection may depend on the needs of each individual mission.

  • Hosted payloads – Also known as “satellite-as-a-service,” integrates multiple payloads from different and independent customers into the same platform with some form of resource sharing (cost, autonomy, concept of operations, etc.). Hosted payload configurations and performance vary by provider. Two examples of hosted payloads are:

    • Service provider brokers multiple independent customer payloads into a single spacecraft bus (no primary payload)

    • Service provider intends to launch their own satellite with its own primary goals but have unused resources and allows secondary payloads to be added

  • Dedicated spacecraft bus – the entirety of the spacecraft bus is at the disposal of a single customer or mission

This chapter organizes the state-of-the-art small spacecraft platforms into these two main categories. The dedicated small spacecraft bus section is further divided by PocketQube, CubeSat, and ESPA-Class offerings. Each subsection contains a summary table with a non-exhaustive list of commercially available small spacecraft platforms.

  1. Hosted Payloads                     (2.2.1)
  2. Dedicated Spacecraft Bus      (2.2.2)
    1. PocketQubes                 (2.2.2.1)
    2. CubeSats                       (2.2.2.2)
    3. ESPA-Class                    (2.2.2.3)

Following Section 2.2 is a brief explanation on systems engineering considerations that introduces newcomers to the design selection process and highlights specific resources for mission development. On the Horizon is a section that describes upcoming technology considered low maturity and revolutionary in small spacecraft platform with the potential to advance the state-of-the-art.

The list of organizations/companies in this chapter is not all-encompassing and does not constitute an endorsement from NASA. The information is for awareness and guidance only. The performance advertised may differ from actual performance since the information has not been independently verified by the State-of-the-Art document staff and relies on information provided directly from the manufacturers or available public information.

Section 2.6 includes a list of providers with contact information and the source used to complete the tables. It is recommended to contact the organizations/companies directly for further clarification and application to your specific needs.

2.2 State-of-the-Art – Spacecraft Platforms

2.2.1 Hosted Payloads

cubesat
Figure 2.1: Representation of NASA’s FASTSAT minisatellite.
Credit: NASA

Hosted payloads, also referred as “satellite-as-a-service,” “hitchhiking” or “piggybacking,” is increasing in popularity due to its cost savings. The idea is to share the spacecraft bus platform with other payloads and still achieve mission success. The terms of the agreement are negotiated in advance with the provider to ensure necessary on-orbit time, power, pointing and data volume (among other resources) are adequate for the mission.

Configurations of a hosted payload platform are typically scalable, and several spacecraft platform vendors provide hosted payload services. Larger spacecraft bus hosted options offer deployable capability/mechanisms for smaller nanosatellite missions. NASA’s Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite (FASTSAT) is an example of a minisatellite that hosted smaller science and technology flight missions. It carried several low-TRL experiments and deployed NanoSail-D. See figure 2.1 for an illustration of FASTSAT. Figure 2.2 is from Loft Orbital Hosted Payload Services.

Hosted payload services are becoming more appealing for academic and government scientific missions. This option provides a cost-effective and timely solution to those missions going to the same destination.

small satellite
Figure 2.2: A rendering of a generic Longbow-class Loft Orbital satellite.
Credit: Loft Orbital
Table 2-1: Hosted Payload Providers
(The fields indicate maximum capability, organizations may offer multiple options including smaller capabilities within the Hosted Payloads category)
OrganizationMax VolumeMax Mass (kg)Peak Power (W)3-σ Pointing Control/ KnowledgeDestinationUS Office
Artemis Space Technologies UK0.58 m35001,5000.01°/0.01°LEO, MEO, GEO, Lunar and Deep SpaceNo
Astranis Space Technologies Corp. USA0.02 m310300<0.1°/ <0.09°GEOYes
Axelspace Japan0.2 m330184<0.05°/ <0.04°LEONo
Berlin Space Technologies Germany1 m32003,000<0.017°/< 0.017°LEOYes
Bradford Space USA0.38 m32201,5001.5°/ 0.006°LEO, GEO, GTO, Cislunar, Lunar, Deep SpaceYes
C3S Electronics Development Hungary16.5U18.51550.2°/ 0.2°LEO, MEONo
EnduroSat Bulgaria10U20600.1°/ 0.05°LEOYes
General Atomics EMS USA0.46 m32004500.03°/ 0.02°LEOYes
German Orbital Systems Germany4U850<1°/< 1°LEONo
Gran Systems Taiwan6U9255°/ 5°LEO, LunarNo
Hemeria France0.1 m3352500.03°/0.01°LEO, GTO, GEONo
Innova Space Argentina0.5U0.54<15°/< 15°LEOYes
In-Space Missions UKUnkUnkUnkUnkLEOUnk
Loft Orbital USA0.44 m385>1,000<0.035°/<0.03°LEOYes
Momentus USA1 m33503,0000.05°/ 0.05°LEOYes
Muon Space USA60U302000.03°/ 0.012°LEOYes
NanoAvionics Lithuania0.7 m31503780.15°/ 0.03°LEOYes
NearSpace Launch USA8U161600.5°/ 0.2°LEOYes
Northrop Grumman USA0.37 m350420<4°/<1°LEOYes
NovaWurks USA1 m315010000.002°/0.0004°LEO, GEO, xGEOYes
NPC SPACEMIND Italy12U24100<0.1°/<0.1°LEO, MEONo
OHB LuxSpace Luxembourg0.3 m390600<0.022°/ 0.01°LEONo
Open Cosmos UK12U181600.03°/0.02°LEONo
Orbital Astronautics UK0.163 m31005,000<0.05°/<0.01°LEO, MEO, GEO, Deep SpaceNo
Orion Space Solutions USA14U  45 400<1°/<1°LEO, GEO, Lunar Yes
Quantum Space USA0.5 m31004000.006°/0.006°LEO, GEO, Cislunar, Lunar, Deep SpaceYes
Redwire USA0.94 m31045000.005°/0.0017°LEO, MEO, GEO and Deep SpaceYes
SatRev Poland3U3251°/0.6°LEONo
Sierra Space USA0.48 m32505000.001°/ <0.001°LEO, MEO, GEOYes
SITAEL Italy0.54 m31001,0000.018°/ 0.010°LEONo
Space Inventor Denmark24U50400<0.008°/ <0.008°LEO, GEO, MEONo
Spacemanic Czech Republic12U185000.1°/ 0.05°LEO, MEO, GEO, LunarNo
Spire Global USA12U323000.1°/ 0.05°LEOYes
Xplore USA0.125 m3552100.17°/ 0.018°VLEO, LEO, CislunarYes
York Space Systems USA3001,5000.008°/ 0.004°LEO, GEO, LunarYes

2.2.2 Dedicated Spacecraft Bus

The market has grown considerably over the last 5 years with complete spacecraft bus solutions including I&T and operations options. The addition of I&T and operations gives missions flexibility in implementation, allowing the mission to focus on unique or challenging aspects of the project as needed. Mission implementation solutions are shown in table 2-2. A complete vendor solution can allow the mission organization to focus primarily on payload development, however this may not be appropriate for all missions. For example, an organization may decide to perform their own mission operations if the vendor offerings do not meet the requirements for the project.

Table 2-2: Mission Implementation Flexibility
OptionProduct or Service
Spacecraft BusSystem-Level Integration and TestingOperations 
1VendorVendorVendor 
2VendorVendorMission Organization 
3VendorMission OrganizationMission Organization 
4Mission OrganizationMission OrganizationMission Organization 

2.2.2.1 PocketQubes

diagram
Figure 2.3: PocketQube Dimensions.

PocketQubes refer to small satellites that conform to a form factor of 5 cm cubes.  PocketQubes use a standard deployer and follow a unit nomenclature of P. In this case 1P refers to a single 5 cm cube (see figure 2.3). Consequently, 2P refers to 2 of these single units. A typical PocketQube deployer can deploy up to a 3P satellite but larger deployers may allow additional capability. PocketQube providers have developed spacecraft busses to simplify mission implementation; a list of providers is included in this section; table 2-3 provides available commercial PocketQube products. Figure 2.4 is an example of a PocketQube deployer at Alba Orbital.

cubesats
Figure 2.4: Alba Orbital Integration of PocketQubes into the Deployers.
Credit: Alba Orbital
Table 2-3: PocketQubes Market Solutions
(The fields indicate maximum capability, organizations may offer multiple options including smaller capabilities within the PocketQube category)
OrganizationPeak Power (W)3-σ Pointing Control/ KnowledgeComm OptionsIntended DestinationMaturityUS Office
Alba Orbital UK155°/2°UHF, SLEOFlown LEOYes
Citadel Space Systems UK20UnkUHF, SUnkUnkUnk
DIYSATELLITE Argentina9<5°/<5°VHF, UHF, SHFLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEONo
FOSSA Systems Spain10<5°/<5°UHF, SLEOFlown LEONo
Innova Space Argentina3.9N/A -Magnetic PassiveUHFLEOFlown LEOYes
Quub, Inc. USA265°/2°UHF, SLEO, LunarFlown LEOYes

2.2.2.1 CubeSats

CubeSats refer to small satellites that conform to a form factor of 10 cm cubes. The CubeSat standard was created by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and Stanford University’s Space Systems Development Lab in 1999 to facilitate access to space for university students. When launch providers started adopting this standard as a secondary payload service it enabled increased, low-cost opportunities for space access. Many organizations are currently using the standard including academia, private industry, and government. For more information on the history of CubeSats, the reader is encouraged to review the Introduction of this report.

diagram
Figure 2.5: CubeSat Dimensions.

diagram
Figure 2.6:  Rails vs. Tabs Restraint System Cross-Section.

CubeSat sizes follow a unit nomenclature in which 1 unit or 1U refers to a single 10 cm cube (see figure 2.5). Consequently, 2U refers to 2 of these single units, 3U is a set of 3 single units, and so forth. CubeSat providers have developed spacecraft busses to accommodate missions from 1U to 27U satellites. This section provides a list of providers separated by satellite size: 0.25U-3U, 6U, 12U and 16U+ in tables 2-4, 2-5, 2-6, and 2-7.

CubeSat sizes follow a unit nomenclature in which 1 unit or 1U refers to a single 10 cm cube (see figure 2.5). Consequently, 2U refers to 2 of these single units, 3U is a set of 3 single units, and so forth. CubeSat providers have developed spacecraft busses to accommodate missions from 1U to 27U satellites. This section provides a list of providers separated by satellite size: 0.25U-3U, 6U, 12U and 16U+ in tables 2-4, 2-5, 2-6, and 2-7.

Multiple companies have developed deployers for CubeSats with different dimensions and external volume allocations. Contact your sponsoring organization and/or launch provider for specifics on which deployer is used in your mission. Many CubeSat deployers exist in the market but the primary 2 interfaces follow the classic corner rails or the tabs (clamped and unclamped), as seen in figure 2.6. Most spacecraft bus providers in this chapter can adapt to different interfaces. Please refer to the Launch, Integration, and Deployment chapter for further information on SmallSat deployers. Figure 2.7 includes images of CubeSat missions that have been successfully flown in space, figure 2.8 provides examples of CubeSat deployers’ location on a rocket, and figure 2.9 provides examples for 6U and 16U satellites from Spire Global.

cubesats
Figure 2.7: Examples of flown CubeSats. (Top left) 1U PhoneSat spacecraft, (top right) 12U CAPSTONE spacecraft, (lower left) 3U CLICK spacecraft, (lower right) 6U PTD-3 spacecraft.
Credits: NASA and Terrain Orbital

cubesat deployers
Figure 2.8: (left) Location of Artemis CubeSat deployers in between the Orion Crew Vehicle and the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS); (right) NASA Nodes mission deployment from  ISS.
Credit: NASA
Figure 2.9: Examples of a 6U and 16U CubeSat.
Credit: Spire Global
Table 2-4: 0.25U-3U Market Solutions
(The fields indicate maximum capability, organizations may offer multiple options including smaller capabilities within the 0.25U‑3U category)
OrganizationPeak Power (W)3-σ Pointing Control/ KnowledgeComm OptionsIntended DestinationMaturityUS Office
AAC Clyde Space Sweden90<0.1°/<0.01°VHF, UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
Alén Space Spain1800.2°/0.1°VHF, UHF, SLEOFlown LEONo
Artemis Space Technologies UK500.01°/0.01°UHF, S, X, Ka, KuDesigned for LEOFlown LEONo
Blue Canyon Technologies USA270.003°/0.003°L, S, XLEO, GEO, Deep SpaceFlown LEO Qualified GEO and Deep SpaceYes
C3S Electronics Hungary350.2°/0.2°UHF, SLEO, MEOFlown LEONo
EnduroSat Bulgaria30<1°/<0.6°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
General Atomics EMS USA100.28°/0.08°UHFLEO, MEO, GEO, xGEOUnder DevelopmentYes
German Orbital Systems Germany24<1°/<1°UHF, SLEOFlown LEONo
GomSpace Denmark352.5°/2°SLEOFlown LEOYes
Gran Systems Taiwan255°/ 5°VHF, UHFLEOFlown LEONo
GUMUSH AeroSpace Turkey80<1°/ <0.005°VHF, UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEONo
Hex20 Australia250.003°/ 0.003°UHF, SLEO, MEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEONo
IMT Italy>510°/5°VHF, UHFLEOUnder DevelopmentNo
Innova Space Argentina7.5<15°/<15°UHFLEOFlown LEOYes
ISISPACE The Netherlands50<15°/<15°VHF, UHF, SLEOFlown LEONo
NanoAvionics Lithuania17513.20°/12.93°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
NearSpace Launch USA800.5°/0.2°L, UHF, S, XVLEO, LEOFlown LEOYes
NPC SPACEMIND Italy51.6<0.1°/<0.1°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, MEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO and MEONo
Open Cosmos UK1602.4°/0.67°UHF, SLEOFlown LEONo
Orbital Astronautics UK4000.1°/ 0.01°S, X, K, Ka, OpticalLEO, MEOFlown LEONo
Orion Space Solutions USA81°/1°L, S, XLEOQualified LEOYes
Pumpkin Space Systems USA2000.05°/<0.05°UHF, S, X, KaLEOFlown LEOYes
Quub, Inc. USA445°/2°UHF, SLEO, LunarFlown LEOYes
SatRev Poland361°/0.6°UHF, SLEOFlown LEONo
SkyLabs Slovenia1000.3°/0.06°VHF, UHF, SLEO, MEOFlown LEO and MEONo
Space Flight Laboratory Canada930.009°/0.004°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified GEO and LunarNo
Space Inventor Denmark1000.01° / 0.01°VHF, UHF, S, X, LLEOFlown LEONo
Spacemanic Czech Republic300.1°/0.05°VHF, UHF, SLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified GEONo
Spire Global USA350.1°/0.05°UHF, L, S, X, Ka, KuLEOFlown LEOYes
Table 2-5: 6U Market Solutions
(The fields indicate maximum capability, organizations may offer multiple options including smaller capabilities within the 6U category)
OrganizationPeak Power (W)3-σ Pointing Control/ KnowledgeComm OptionsIntended DestinationMaturityUS Office
AAC Clyde Space Sweden150<0.1°/<0.01°VHF, UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
Alén Space Spain1800.2°/0.1°VHF, UHF, SLEOFlown LEONo
Argotec Italy100<0.03°/<0.01°UHF, S, X, KLEO, GEO, Lunar, Deep SpaceFlown Deep Space Flown LunarYes
Artemis Space Technologies UK1000.01°/0.01°UHF, S, X, Ka, Ku, OpticalLEO, MEO, GEO, Lunar, Deep SpaceFlown LEO Qualified MEO, GEO, Lunar, and Deep SpaceNo
Astro Digital USA240<0.1°/<0.05°UHF, S, X, KaLEOFlown LEOYes
Blue Canyon Technologies USA1080.003°/0.003°L, S, XLEO, GEO, Deep SpaceFlown LEO and Lunar Qualified GEO and Deep SpaceYes
C3S Electronics Development Hungary165<0.2°/<0.2°UHF, SLEO, MEOUnder DevelopmentNo
EnduroSat Bulgaria60<0.021°/<0.021°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
General Atomics EMS USA100.28°/0.08°UHF, SLEOFlown LEOYes
German Orbital Systems Germany72<1°/<1°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEONo
GomSpace Denmark1020.07°/0.056°S, XLEO, Deep SpaceFlown LEO Qualified Deep SpaceYes
Hex20 Australia450.003°/0.003°UHF, S, XLEO, MEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEONo
IMT Italy1150.1°/0.1°VHF, UHF, S, C, XLEOUnder DevelopmentNo
ISISPACE The Netherlands100<0.3°/<0.3°UHF, S, XLEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified for LunarNo
Millennium Space Systems USA100<0.03°/<0.014°UHF, SLEOFlown LEOYes
NanoAvionics Lithuania1750.18°/0.12°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
NearSpace Launch USA1600.5°/0.2°L, UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
NPC SPACEMIND Italy85.2<0.1°/<0.1°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, MEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEONo
Open Cosmos UK1600.02°/0.01°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEONo
Orbital Astronautics UK1,0000.1°/0.01°S, X, K, Ka, OpticalLEO, MEOFlown LEONo
Orion Space Solutions USA151°/1°L, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
Pumpkin Space USA2000.05°/<0.05°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified LunarYes
Quub, Inc.USA505°/2°UHF, S, KuLEO, LunarUnder DevelopmentYes
SatRev Poland361°/0.6°UHF, SLEOQualified LEONo
SkyLabs Slovenia2000.3°/0.06°VHF, UHF, SLEO, MEOFlown LEO and MEONo
Space Dynamics Lab USA800.021°/0.021°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, GEO, GTO, Cislunar, Deep SpaceQualified LEO and GEOYes
Space Flight Laboratory Canada2400.009°/0.004°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified GEO and LunarNo
Space Inventor Denmark200<0.008°/<0.008°VHF, UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEONo
Spacemanic Czech Republic5000.1°/0.05°VHF, UHF, SLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified GEONo
Spire Global USA2000.1°/0.05°UHF, L, S, X. Ka, KuLEOFlown LEOYes
Terran Orbital USA1800.008°/0.007°UHF, S, X, CLEO, GEO, Deep SpaceFlown LEO and Lunar Qualified GEO and Deep SpaceYes
Table 2-6: 12U Market Solutions
(The fields indicate maximum capability, organizations may offer multiple options including smaller capabilities within the 12U category)
OrganizationPeak Power (W)3-σ Pointing Control/ KnowledgeComm OptionsIntended DestinationMaturityUS Office
AAC Clyde Space Sweden400<0.01°/<0.0075°VHF, UHF, S, X, K, Ka, Ku, OpticalLEOQualified LEOYes
Argotec Italy180<0.03°/<0.01°UHF, S, X, KLEO, GEO, Lunar, Deep Space, DROUnder DevelopmentYes
Artemis Space Technologies UK1500.01°/0.01°UHF, S, X, Ka, Ku, OpticalLEO, MEO, GEO, Lunar, Deep SpaceFlown LEO Qualified GEO, MEO, Lunar, and Deep SpaceNo
Blue Canyon Technologies USA1080.0025°/0.0025°L, S, XLEO, GEO, Deep SpaceFlown LEO and GEO Qualified Deep SpaceYes
C3S Electronics Development Hungary165<0.2°/<0.2°UHF, SLEO, MEOUnder DevelopmentNo
EnduroSat Bulgaria700.1°/0.05°UHF, S, X, KLEOFlown LEOYes
General Atomics EMS USA1150.3°/0.024°UHF, SLEOQualified LEOYes
GomSpace Denmark1020.07°/0.056°S, XLEOQualified LEOYes
Hex20 Australia1100.003°/0.003°UHF, XLEO, MEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEONo
ISISPACE The Netherlands190<0.03°/<0.03°UHF, S, X, KaLEOUnder DevelopmentNo
NanoAvionics Lithuania1750.18°/0.09°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
NearSpace Launch USA5000.5°/0.2°L, UHF, S, XLEO, MEOUnder DevelopmentYes
NPC SPACEMIND Italy96<0.1°/<0.1°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, MEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEONo
Open Cosmos UK1600.031°/0.027°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEONo
Orbital Astronautics UK1,0000.05°/0.01°S, X, K, Ka, OpticalLEO, MEO, GEOFlown LEONo
Orion Space Solutions USA40 <1°/<1°L, S, X, Ka LEO, GEO Qualified LEO and GEOYes
Pumpkin Space USA4000.05°/<0.05°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, LunarQualified LEOYes
SkyLabs Slovenia5000.3°/0.06°VHF, UHF, SLEO, MEOFlown LEO and MEONo
Space Dynamics Lab USA800.021°/0.021°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, GEO, GTO, Cislunar, Deep SpaceFlown LEO Qualified GTO and GEOYes
Space Flight Laboratory Canada3220.009°/0.004°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified GEO and LunarNo
Space Information Laboratories USA1800.008°/0.008°S, X, KaLEO, GEO, LunarUnder DevelopmentYes
Space Inventor Denmark200<0.008°/<0.008°VHF, UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEONo
Spacemanic Czech Republic5000.1°/0.05°VHF, UHF, S, XLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified GEONo
Spire Global USA3000.1°/0.05°UHF, L, S, X, Ka, KuLEOQualified LEOYes
Terran Orbital USA1800.008°/0.007°UHF, S, X, CLEO, GEO, Lunar, Deep SpaceFlown LEO and Lunar Qualified GEO and Deep SpaceYes
Table 2-7: 16U+ Market Solutions
(The fields indicate maximum capability, organizations may offer multiple options including smaller capabilities within the 16U+ category)
OrganizationFormatPeak Power (W)3-σ Pointing Control/ KnowledgeComm OptionsIntended DestinationMaturityUS Office
AAC Clyde Space Sweden16U400<0.01°/<0.0075°VHF, UHF, S, X, K, Ka, Ku, OpticalLEOQualified LEOYes
Argotec Italy16U+250<0.07°/<0.03°UHF, S, X, KGEO, Lunar, Mars, Deep SpaceUnder DevelopmentYes
Artemis Space Technologies UK16U2000.01°/0.01°UHF, S, X, Ka, Ku, OpticalLEO, MEO, GEO, Lunar, Deep SpaceFlown LEO Qualified GEO, MEO, Lunar, and Deep SpaceNo
Astro Digital USA16U+500<0.05°/<0.01°UHF, S, X, Ku, Ka, V, W, OpticalLEOFlown LEOYes
Blue Canyon Technologies USA16U1080.0025°/0.0025°L, S, XLEO, GEO, Deep SpaceQualified LEO, GEO and Deep SpaceYes
C3S Electronics Hungary16U+165<0.2°/<0.2°UHF, SLEO, MEOUnder DevelopmentNo
EnduroSat Bulgaria16U800.1°/0.05°UHF, S, X, KLEOQualified LEOYes
German Orbital Systems Germany16U164<1°/<1°UHF, S, XLEOQualified LEONo
GomSpace Denmark16U1500.07°/0.056°S, XLEOQualified LEOYes
Hex20 Australia27U1500.003°/0.003°UHF, S, XLEO, MEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEONo
ISISPACE The Netherlands16U190<0.03°/<0.03°UHF, S, X, KaLEOUnder DevelopmentNo
NanoAvionics Lithuania16U1750.18°/0.09°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
Nara Space Korea16U2320.006°/0.006°S, XLEOQualified LEONo
NPC SPACEMIND Italy16U120<0.1°/<0.1°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, MEO, GEO, LunarUnder DevelopmentNo
Open Cosmos UK16U1600.031°/0.027°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEONo
Orbital Astronautics UK16U, 27U1,0000.05°/0.01°S, X, K, Ka, OpticalLEO, GEO, LunarQualified LEONo
Orion Space Solutions USA16U+400<1°/<1°L, S, X, Ka, OpticalLEO, GEO, LunarQualified LEO, GEO and LunarYes
Pumpkin Space USA16U, 27U4000.05°/<0.05°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, LunarQualified LEOYes
SkyLabs Slovenia20U+500<0.005°/<0.003°VHF, UHF, SLEO, MEOFlown LEO and MEONo
Space Flight Laboratory Canada16U3220.009°/0.004°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified GEO and LunarNo
Space Information Laboratories USA27U1800.008°/0.008°S, X, KaLEO, GEO, LunarUnder DevelopmentYes
Space Inventor Denmark16U200<0.008°/<0.008°VHF, UHF, S, X, L, Ka, Ku, QVLEO, GEO, MEOFlown LEO and GEONo
Spacemanic Czech Republic16U, 27U1,0000.1°/0.05°VHF, UHF, S, XLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified GEO and LunarNo
Spire Global USA16U3000.1°/0.05°UHF, L, S, X, Ka, KuLEOFlown LEOYes

2.2.2.2 ESPA-Class

The term ESPA-class refers to the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter (SPA) or similar configurations. The ESPA ring typically separates the primary payload with the upper stage of the launch vehicle, permitting additional mounting allocations for secondary payloads. Multiple rings can be stacked without a primary payload on the top to launch multiple payloads.

For this document, the ESPA-class table 2-8 includes options that may not be designed for the ESPA ring, but its mass and volume permit adaptability to rideshare opportunities. The information in this chapter is limited to offerings with mass under 500 kg even though some variants of the ESPA ring can support higher mass. Variants of the ESPA ring include, but are not limited to, ESPA-Heavy and ESPA-Grande. Examples of ESPA Rideshare are provided in figures 2.10 and 2.11, while figure 2.12 shows an example for an ESPA satellite from Muon Space.

3d model
Figure 2.10: Example Mission Configuration using Rideshare Plates.
Credit: SpaceX
photo
Figure 2.11: LandSat-9 ESPA Ring populated with payloads and mass ballasts
Credits: NASA / Randy Beaudoin
satellite bus in facility
Figure 2.12: ESPA-Class satellite bus from Muon Space during integration at SpaceX facility for Transporter 8 rideshare mission.
Credits: Muon Space via ExoLaunch and SpaceX
Table 2-8: ESPA-Class Market Solutions
(The fields indicate maximum capability; organizations may offer multiple options including smaller capabilities within the ESPA‑Class category)
OrganizationPeak Power (W)3-σ Pointing Control/ KnowledgeComm OptionsIntended DestinationMaturityUS Office
Airbus US Space & DefenseUSA2,2000.3°/0.3°S, Ka, OpticalLEOFlown LEOYes
Argotec Italy250<0.005°UHF, S, X, KLEOUnder DevelopmentYes
Artemis Space Technologies UK1,2500.01°/0.01°UHF, S, X, Ka, Ku, OpticalLEO, MEO, GEO, Lunar, Deep SpaceQualified LEO, MEO, GEO, Lunar and Deep SpaceNo
Astranis Space Technologies Corp. USA2,500<0.1°/<0.01°MIL-Ka, Ka, Ku, Q, V, XMEO, GEO, Cislunar, Deep Space, Polar, High InclinationFlown GEOYes
Astro Digital USA2,000<0.05°/<0.01°UHF, S, X, Ku, Ka, V, W, OpticalLEO, GEO, Deep SpaceFlown LEOYes
Ball Aerospace USA1,000<0.007°/<0.006°L, S, X, KaLEO, MEO, GEO, Deep SpaceFlown LEOYes
Berlin Space Technologies Germany3,000<0.017°/<0.017°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
Blue Canyon Technologies USA1,0820.0025°/0.0025°L, S, XLEO, GEO, Deep SpaceFlown LEO and GEO Qualified Deep SpaceYes
Bradford Space USA1,5001.5°/0.006°S, KLEO, GEO, GTO, Cislunar, Lunar, Deep SpaceUnder DevelopmentYes
CesiumAstro USA4,500<0.1°/<0.01°S, L, Ku, Ka, OpticalLEOUnder DevelopmentYes
EnduroSat Bulgaria1700.1°/<0.05°UHF, S, X, KLEOUnder DevelopmentYes
General Atomics EMS USA4500.03°/0.02°S, XLEOQualified LEOYes
Hemeria France250<0.03°/<0.01°S, XLEO, GEO, GTOFlown LEO Qualified GEO and GTONo
LeoStella USA2,0000.013°/0.009°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
Lockheed Martin USA500+<0.1°/<0.1°S, X, KaLEO, GEO, Lunar, Deep SpaceFlown LEO Qualified GEO, Lunar and Deep SpaceYes
Loft Orbital USA>1,000<0.035°/<0.03°S, X, LLEOFlown LEOYes
Magellan Aerospace Canada2000.01°/0.01°S, XLEOFlown LEONo
Malin Science Space Systems USA918<0.015°/<0.015°UHF, X, KaMarsUnder DevelopmentYes
Millennium Space Systems USA500<0.013°/<0.008°S, X, KaLEO, MEO, GEO, Deep SpaceFlown LEO and GEOYes
Momentus USA7500.05°/0.025°S, Ka, OpticalLEOFlown LEOYes
Muon Space USA5000.03°/0.012°S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
NanoAvionics Lithuania6600.24°/0.09°UHF, S, XLEOFlown LEOYes
Northrop Grumman USA400<0.01°/<0.008°S, X, KaLEO, GEO, HEOFlown LEO, GEO, and HEOYes
NovaWurks USA>5,0000.002°/0.0004°UHF, S, L, X, Ka, Ku and OpticalLEO, MEO, GEO, GTO, HEO, Lunar and Deep SpaceFlown LEO and GTOYes
OHB LuxSpace Luxembourg834<0.022°/ 0.01°S, XLEOQualified LEONo
Open Cosmos UK2,200<0.033°/0.03°S, XLEOUnder DevelopmentNo
Orbital Astronautics UK5,0000.05°/0.01°S, X, K, Ka, OpticalLEO, MEO, GEO, Deep SpaceQualified LEONo
Quantum Space USA1,0000.006°/0.006°S, X, KaLEO, GEO, Cislunar, Lunar, Deep SpaceUnder DevelopmentYes
Redwire USA6000.005°/0.0017°XLEOQualified LEOYes
Sierra Space USA5000.001°/ <0.001°UHF, S, XLEO, MEO, GEOFlown LEOYes
SITAEL Italy1,0000.018°/0.010°S, X, KaLEOUnder DevelopmentNo
Southwest Research Institute USA1,5500.015°/0.002°S, X, KaLEO, GEOFlown LEO Under Development GEOYes
Space Dynamics Lab USA1,6000.021°/0.021°UHF, S, X, Ka, OpticalLEO, GEO, GTO, Cislunar, Deep SpaceFlown LEOYes
Space Flight Laboratory Canada1,2000.009°/0.004°UHF, S, X, KaLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified GEO and LunarNo
Space Inventor Denmark400<0.008°/<0.008°VHF, UHF, S, X, L, Ka, Ku, QVLEO, GEO, MEOQualified LEONo
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited UK4000.01°/0.01°S, XLEOFlown LEONo
Terran Orbital USA4,0000.003°/0.002°UHF, S, X, CLEO, GEO, Lunar and Deep SpaceUnder DevelopmentYes
XPLORE USA9500.17°/ 0.018°S, XVLEO, LEO, CislunarUnder DevelopmentYes
York Space Systems USA1,5000.008°/0.004°UHF, S, X, Ka, Ku, OpticalLEO, GEO, LunarFlown LEO Qualified GEO and LunarYes

2.3 Programmatic and Systems Engineering Considerations

To make an appropriate decision on which design path to take, small satellite mission developers should consider the programmatic and Systems Engineering factors most important to them, such as:

  • What are the environments the system will be exposed during development and in flight?

  • Are the Concept of Operations well defined and understood?

  • How well do the systems meet functional and performance requirements?

  • What are the mission’s key performance parameters (e.g., mass, volume, power, data link, data budget, pointing) and how much margin do they offer?

  • What is the software development environment, and how much flight and ground software can be re-used? Are emulators, simulators, Engineering Development Units (EDUs) and/or flatsats available to aid that development?

  • What are the systems’/components’ flight heritage, Technology Readiness Level (TRL), and reliability? What is the remaining Research and Development (R&D) level of effort to integrate the system with existing and/or planned systems?

  • What is the mission’s risk posture? How much development risk and performance risk are acceptable to the mission?

  • Is it most important to meet performance requirements, cost, and/or schedule? What is the system’s/components’ production/lead time, and what are the contractual mechanisms that will be used to procure the systems and ensure timely delivery if delays are encountered?

Design selection can be driven by unique mission constraints, manufacturing lead time, and documented reliability. All of these and many more considerations should be well understood for each trade space option prior to a down-select. Given mission system performance requirements for key performance parameters like mass, volume, power, data link, data budget, and pointing, a functional importance rating and risk-based trade study should be used to screen the many options available. In addition to functional performance, relevant flight heritage or TRL, production lead time, and any available reliability data should be included in the trades. These, as well as cost, could drive the design to be done via COTS or commercial support.

Mission developers may want to take into consideration the following guides to help them in their selection and design process:

2.4 On the Horizon

As spacecraft buses are combinations of the subsystems described in later chapters, it is unlikely there will be any revolutionary changes in this chapter that are not preceded by revolutionary changes in some other chapter. As launch services become less expensive and commonplace with the rise of dedicated SmallSats launches, the market will continue to expand allowing interested universities and researchers to purchase COTS spacecraft platforms as an alternative to developing and integrating SmallSats themselves. Another option is to use numerous turnkey solutions offered by SmallSat vendors who can customize and cater to customer constraints.

SmallSat subsystem technology will continue to mature and gain flight heritage, to produce improved next generation platforms offered by vendors. Platforms with increased performance will spark the interest of newer vendors as they emerge into the market. This was demonstrated in the PocketQube industry: the requirement to satisfy ultra-low mass and volume constraints enabled high-performance capabilities. As the industry grows, there will likely be key technological advancements in SmallSat in-space propulsion, pointing and navigation control, optical communications, radiation tolerance, and radiation hardening. Subsystems described in other chapters in this report include details on radiation testing, but a subsystems’ mean time between failures (MTBF) and overall system reliability will become a key design criterion as the sample groups become large enough to be statistically significant.

2.5 Summary

Several vendors have pre-designed fully integrated small spacecraft buses that are space rated and available for purchase. The market ranges from companies that are willing to heavily modify their systems to fit the customer’s needs to companies attempting to standardize their system with little to no customization in favor of a better cost proposition. This chapter consolidated a long list of providers with key characteristics to facilitate the research and down-selection process for SmallSat practitioners.

For feedback about this chapter, email: arc-sst-soa@mail.nasa.gov. Please include a business email in case of follow up questions.

References

The references in this section are provided to facilitate the process in which practitioners can obtain information from the providers. The source indicates how the information provided in this chapter was obtained.

Source definition:

Direct New = organization provided the information through direct communication with the State-of-the-Art team for the current edition of the document.

Direct Old = organization provided the information through direct communication with the State-of-the-Art team on a previous edition of the document, and the team was unable to communicate with the organization to update the current edition of the document.

Website = the team was unable to directly communicate with the organization and limited information was obtained from the organization’s website.

Table 2-9: List of Contact Information for Organizations in this Chapter
OrganizationSourceContact EmailWebsite
AAC Clyde SpaceDirect Newenquiries@aac-clydespace.comwww.aac-clyde.space
Airbus US Space & DefenseDirect Newdeborah.horn@airbusus.comwww.airbusus.com
Alba OrbitalDirect Newcontact@albaorbital.comwww.albaorbital.com
Alen SpaceDirect Newsales@alen.spacewww.alen.space
ArgotecDirect Newinfo@argotecgroup.comwww.argotecgroup.com
Artemis Space TechnologiesDirect Newinfo@spaceartemis.comwww.spaceartemis.com
AstranisDirect Newscott@astranis.comwww.astranis.com
Astro DigitalDirect Newbrian@astrodigital.comwww.astrodigital.com
AxelspaceDirect NewContact Pagewww.axelspace.com
Ball AerospaceDirect NewGeneral Inquiry Formwww.ballaerospace.com
Berlin Space TechnologiesDirect Newinfo@berlin-space-tech.comwww.berlin-space-tech.com
Blue Canyon TechnologiesDirect Newinfo@bluecanyontech.comwww.bluecanyontech.com
Bradford SpaceDirect Newinfo@bradford-space.comBradford-Space.com
C3S Electronics DevelopmentDirect Oldinfo@c3s.huwww.c3s.hu
CesiumAstroDirect Newinfo@cesiumastro.comwww.cesiumastro.com
Citadel Space SystemsWebsitecontact@citadel.spaceCitadel.space
DIYSATELLITEDirect Newgus@diysatellite.comwww.diysatellite.com
EnduroSatDirect NewContact Pagewww.endurosat.com
FOSSA SystemsDirect Newcontact@fossa.systemsFossa.systems
General Atomics EMSDirect NewChris.white@ga.comwww.ga.com/EMS
German Orbital SystemsDirect Newinfo@orbitalsystems.dewww.orbitalsystems.de
GomSpaceDirect Newinfo@gomspace.comgomspace.com
Gran SystemsDirect Newinfo@gransystems.comwww.gransystems.com
GUMUSH AeroSpaceDirect Newgumush@gumush.com.trwww.gumush.com.tr
HemeriaDirect Newcontact@hemeria-group.comwww.hemeria-group.com/en
Hex20Direct Newlloyd@hex20.com.auwww.hex20.com.au
IMTDirect Newgiovanni.cucinella@imtsrl.itimtsrl.it
Innova SpaceDirect Newinfo@innova-space.cominnova-space.com/en
In-Space MissionsWebsiteinfo@in-space.co.ukin-space.co.uk
ISISPACEDirect Oldsales@isispace.nlwww.isispace.nl
LeoStellaDirect Newmike.kaplan@leostella.comleostella.com
Lockheed MartinDirect Newtimothy.m.linn@lmco.com
Loft OrbitalDirect Newgautier@loftorbital.comwww.loftorbital.com
Magellan AerospaceDirect Newrushi.ghadawala@magellan.aerowww.magellan.aero
Malin Space Science SystemsDirect Newyee@msss.comwww.msss.com
Millennium Space SystemsDirect NewContact Webpagewww.millennium-space.com
MomentusDirect Newsales@momentus.spaceMomentus.space
Muon SpaceDirect Newinfo@muonspace.comwww.muonspace.com
NanoavionicsDirect Newinfo@nanoavionics.comwww.nanoavionics.com
NearSpace LaunchDirect Newnsl@nearspacelaunch.comwww.nearspacelaunch.com
Northrop GrummanDirect NewJohn.Dyster@ngc.com
NovaWurksDirect Newinfo@NovaWurks.comwww.novawurks.com
NPC SPACEMINDDirect Newinfo@npcspacemind.comwww.npcspacemind.com
OHB LuxSpaceDirect Newinfo@luxspace.luOHB LuxSpace
Open CosmosDirect Newpartnerships@open-cosmos.comopen-cosmos.com
Orbital AstronauticsDirect Newhello@orbastro.comorbastro.com
Orion Space SolutionsDirect Newcontact@orionspace.comorionspace.com
Pumpkin Space SystemsDirect Newsales@pumpkininc.comwww.pumpkinspace.com
Quantum SpaceDirect Newsales@quantumspace.uswww.quantumspace.us
Quub, Inc.Direct Newinfo@quub.spacequub.space
RedwireDirect Newsales@redwirespace.comwww.redwirespace.com
SatRevDirect Newengage@satrev.spacewww.satrev.space
Sierra SpaceDirect New spaceapps@sierraspace.comwww.sierraspace.com
SITAELDirect Newsales.space@sitael.comwww.sitael.com
SkyLabsDirect Newsales@skylabs.siwww.skylabs.si
Southwest Research InstituteDirect Newspacecraft-info@swri.org
Space Dynamics LabDirect Newinfo@sdl.usu.eduwww.sdl.usu.edu
Space Flight LaboratoryDirect Newinfo@utias-sfl.netwww.utias-sfl.net
Space Information LaboratoriesDirect Newsales@spaceinformationlabs.comwww.spaceinformationlabs.com
Space InventorDirect Newsales@space-inventor.comspace-inventor.com
SpacemanicDirect Newsales@spacemanic.comwww.spacemanic.com
Spire GlobalDirect Newjoe.carroll@spire.comwww.spire.com
Surrey Satellite Technology LimitedDirect Newinfo@sstl.co.ukwww.sstl.co.uk
Terran OrbitalDirect Oldinfo@terranorbital.comterranorbital.com
XploreDirect Newinquire@xplore.comwww.xplore.com
York Space SystemsDirect NewBD@yorkspacesystems.comwww.yorkspacesystems.com