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Vyoma To Expand Space Debris Constellation with New Aerospacelab Satellite

The new satellite, weighing 60 kilograms, is slated for launch to low Earth orbit (LEO) by the end of 2025.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Sat Jun 15 2024Written by Zac Aubert

German startup Vyoma has selected the Belgian company Aerospacelab to construct the third small satellite for its proposed space debris-monitoring constellation.

The new satellite, weighing 60 kilograms, is slated for launch to low Earth orbit (LEO) by the end of 2025. This addition will assist in tracking debris both in LEO and geostationary orbit, contributing to Vyoma’s mission of fostering a safer space environment.

Vyoma, a four-year-old space situational awareness (SSA) venture, did not disclose specific launch details for this mission. However, it is part of Vyoma's broader strategy which includes launching the first of two small satellites from the Bulgarian cubesat specialist EnduroSat by the end of this year.

“Overall, our growing surveillance constellation will foster a safer and more secure space environment,...Empowering intelligence officers and operators to make effective operational decisions.” - Luisa Buinhas, Vyoma's Chief Program Officer.

The satellite is a part of Vyoma's planned 12-satellite constellation named Flamingo.

Using optical telescopes, these satellites will track and catalog debris passively, particularly focusing on LEO objects larger than 10 centimeters. These observations will enhance the SSA data Vyoma currently provides to European defense customers, who use ground-based sensors capable of tracking LEO objects down to six centimeters but only in clear atmospheric conditions. Vyoma aims to eventually track objects as small as one centimeter.

The contract with Aerospacelab signifies the second commercial use of their Versatile Satellite Platform-50 (VSP-50).

This follows a recent order from the Californian company Xona Space Systems for a navigation constellation launch next year. Aerospacelab will handle the manufacturing, assembly, integration, and testing of Vyoma's satellite, along with payload and launch integration and early-orbit phase commissioning.

Aerospacelab's says the satellite will be built at their Monnet Center facility near Brussels, which has the capacity to produce 24 spacecraft annually. In addition, Aerospacelab is planning a U.S. manufacturing facility and a "megafactory" in Belgium to produce up to 500 satellites per year.

Although Aerospacelab recently acquired the Belgian optics specialist AMOS, Deper clarified that the Vyoma satellite would not incorporate components from this acquisition. Instead, it will use the VSP-150 platform’s technology, including the optical payloads used for remote sensing services for clients like the European Space Agency and the Swiss Ministry of Defense.

“VSP-50 leverages VSP-150 heritage by utilizing the same subsystems and avionics architecture,...The thermo-mechanical envelope differs, and VSP-50 enables hosting payloads facing any direction.” - Benoit Deper, Aerospacelab's Founder and CEO

For Vyoma’s mission, the optical payload will face outward into space, as opposed to Earth observation missions where it points towards the ground.

Vyoma has secured two free launch slots through a competition organized by Germany’s space agency aimed at promoting domestic businesses. The first slot will be utilized on the second test flight of Rocket Factory Augsburg’s (RFA) RFA One rocket, a mission planned for the end of 2024, contingent on the success of RFA One's inaugural flight scheduled for August in the United Kingdom.

Details for the German rocket that Vyoma plans to use for its second free launch slot in 2026 have not yet been announced.

In October, Vyoma secured an additional five million euros ($5.4 million) from a space fund backed by the European Investment Fund, European Investment Bank, and the European Union, bringing its total funding to over 16 million euros.