Your own satellite

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Your veryown satellite.

The many applications of a private satellite

Unless owning a satellite is in itself your objective, how you are going to use it is the first important thing to consider. The idea is worth pursuing for those applications that cannot be accomplished if not from orbit and those whose techniques are most cost-effective in space.

Below are some brief explanations of the features of dedicated satellites. They are meant to ignite your imagination on the possibilities of this approach, but they are necessarily generic hints. You may come up with creative uses not included in the list below: if that is the case, we would love to hear your ideas!

Wide-Area Observations

Most of the microsatellites orbiting the Earth travel on orbits of 500 Km to 800 Km in altitude. From there, the field of view is remarkably wide. For instance WNISAT-1, which had the specific requirement of capturing wide portions of the Arctic Sea in a single shot, is capable of observing a square area of 500 Km per side.

Global Coverage

Polar orbits, revolving in a North-South direction, are a popular choice for microsatellites: they exploit the West-East rotation of the Earth to gain access to every part of the planet. This is perfect for global applications, but works well for local services too. If your local service can be replicated in other parts of the world, you can partner with regional operators to share the risks and costs of the business.

High-Frequency and Long-Term Access

If you only need low frequency observations of the order of one per year then aircraft, helicopters, balloons and airships may be good substitutes for satellites. Their initial costs are generally lower and, being closer to the ground, they can achieve higher resolutions (at the expense of smaller fields of view).

However, if you need weekly or even daily data for extended periods of time, microsatellites become a much less expensive option. Unlike aircraft, they require no maintenance at all, no hangars and they even fly periodically over the target areas on their own accord.

If you are sharing the microsatellite with other users, you may even do away with the initial development costs altogether. In this case, single-use costs may be lower than resource-hungry airplanes and helicopters.

Freedom to Use It As You Like

Space has no borders nor owners. Except for the direct use of ground stations, you can use your satellite however you want without need for permissions from any nation.

Secrecy

Unless you voluntarily reveal how you are using your satellite, that knowledge is generally not reachable by third parties. Because they are so hard to access by others, satellites may even serve as ultra-secure storage for sensitive data (e.g. cryptographic keys).

Anti-Disaster Applications

Cyclones, earthquakes, forest fires… disasters of all kinds are constantly happening around the world. Spacecraft, on the other hand, are unaffected by all of these phenomena. It is thus possible to conceive anti-disaster applications, where the satellite serves as back-up tools when catastrophes happen, or to assess the situation in recostruction programs.

Advantages of the Space Environment

Some aspects of the space environment could be exploited to meet your needs. Space is an extreme place. Vacuum, radiation and temperature variations, among other things, make it very different from the ground. For example, the surface of the satellite that is exposed to the sun quickly reaches temperatures of more than 100°C. In the shadow of the Earth, the temperatures plummet to less than -100°C. Low orbit satellites revolve around the Earth roughly 14 times a day, meaning that these big jumps in temperature are repeated with the same frequency.

Observing the direction opposite to the Earth may be an interesting use. Without the atmosphere, looking at the stars is a totally different experience.

The Best Idea Is in Your Own Head

In the end, after understanding the characteristics of space and satellites, you, the client, are the only one who can decide how to use them and what to do with them. All we can do is put our knowledge and experience at your service and help you realizing whatever it is you want to do.

‘I wonder if a satellite could see this from space.’

‘It would be great if we could do that in space!’

We would love to hear this kind of inspiration from you. Even if your idea sounds infeasible for space applications, don’t hesitate to discuss it with us. Suggestions unbiased by space and satellite knowledge are valuable, and may lead to the most interesting use-cases. Where we really shine is in transforming those ideas into concrete projects.

It may turn out to be cheaper to accomplish with ground-based methods or it may require capabilities unachievable by microsatellites. In any case, we will provide the results of our feasibility studies and leave the decision to go forward or not to you. This is our role: rather than a space development company we are space solution providers.

Microsat Project Flow

This is a brief guide to all the steps in a microsatellite project. We never ask for whole-project contracts. Instead, we periodically confirm the outcome of each step with our customers, and leave the decision on whether to proceed further or not up to them. We advance the project step by step toward the realization of the customers’ idea with maximum focus on their satisfaction.

Brainstorming

The process never begins directly with spacecraft development. The first step is a preliminary discussion of your raw utilization idea. At this time, no one knows if your problems can be solved by a satellite. The concept becomes clear and takes shape through repeated discussions with you, the customer. This is the most important part in the whole project. In this phase we take all the time necessary to distill the perfect solution concept for the given requirements.

Feasibility Study

As soon as we get the initial concept to a shape that we can share, we proceed to further examine the technological feasibility of the idea. Then we convert the idea into figures and detailed specifications.

BBM Development

If the items to develop are many, (which is the case especially with innovative missions), we may need to build a prototype called Bread-Board Model (BBM) to verify its performance. This is more like a partial model essential to overcome specific technological challenges rather than a complete satellite. This phase can be skipped if we deem the development risks low enough.

EM Development

After we clear the main technological hurdles through the BBM, we begin exhaustive satellite design. We call this hardware Engineering Model (EM) and with it we can check the functionality of the overall system. This phase accounts for a large portion of the project.

Performance Checks & Environmental Tests

In this phase we thoroughly test the EM, as after launch the satellite will be out of our reach and impossible to repair. We check whether each function works as designed, and confirm its survivability in space through various environmental tests including vibration, shock, vacuum, temperature and radiation tests.

FM Development

When we are confident that the EM works as intended, we move to the construction of the Flight Model (FM), the one that will actually go to space. We use feedback from the previous step to apply further improvements. The satellite has to be kept away from dust, so the FM is always integrated and tested inside a clean booth where the amount of particles floating in the air is carefully managed.

Launch

Launch is a necessary step for a spacecraft to reach orbit. As the launch date draws near, we ship the satellite to the launch site, conduct final checkout and mount it on the launch vehicle. After that, we can only hope for a successful launch. Note that we generally need to make a contract with the launch service provider at least one year before launch. During the EM phase we need to select an appropriate launch service taking cost and schedule into consideration. We fully support the customer in this selection process.

Commissioning

A successful launch is followed by the in-orbit separation from the launch vehicle, after which the satellite is activated. We analyze the signal from the satellite and check the status of each function. These in-orbit tests continue for a period of two weeks to one month before the satellite can start its intended mission.

Nominal Operation

Once we give the satellite green light for nominal operation, it finally starts working for you. Make the best of your satellite to reach your objectives.

Extended Operation

Performance deterioration of the satellite is unavoidable after long use. Before this negatively affects service quality, we terminate nominal operations. However, this doesn’t mean that the satellite gets scrapped immediately. We sometimes try challenging experiments and high-risk operations for future missions, accepting the possibility of the satellite malfunctions. This phase is called extended operation.

End of Life

After the satellite completes its mission, we have to stop any signal transmission to preserve valuable frequency resources. We call this closure of transmission. Even after closure of transmission, the satellite continues orbiting for years, turning into space junk. Some satellites have a special device to accelerate their orbital decay making themselves burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere as soon as possible. In that case, we need to activate the device before closure of transmission. This is the end of the satellite’s life.

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Introducing a novel way to observe our planet. Until now, high-resolution satellite imagery has been a costly and low-frequency service. Thanks to the flexibility and the low costs of microsatellite technology, we are now able to generate new value through global, high-frequency coverage of the Earth.

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Your own Satellite

Space utilization used to be a prerogative of national governments: not any more. Modern microsatellites can drastically cut both mission development times and costs, allowing private companies and research institutions to join the race. Axelspace puts its home-grown, cutting-edge microsatellite technology at your service to help you meet your specific business needs from an orbital vantage point. Our service is “Batteries Included”: from initial concept to design and manufacture, from launch arrangements to orbital operations, everything is covered.

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